I wrote earlier this week about Ferris Backmeyer, and you may be wondering how in the world someone who is only 2-1/2 years of age is able to undergo a kidney transplant.
Ferris, who lives in Kamloops with her mother, father and two sisters, has kidney disease. She has been doing peritoneal dialysis at home for 18 months now.
Her mother, Lindsey, recently revealed on Facebook that they have been given the OK to
look for a living kidney donor for Ferris.
“We have been told the donor process can take just as long as the transplant workup for Ferris,” Lindsey wrote, “so starting the search now is recommended.”
Obviously, Ferris isn’t going to get a kidney from a three-year-old living donor. So let’s look at a few things . . .
First, from the Kidney Foundation of Canada (kidney.ca):
“A living kidney donation comes most often from a family member such as a parent, child, brother or sister. A donor can also be a spouse, friend or co-worker. Or it can be a stranger. A genetic link between donor and recipient, although beneficial, is not always required. This is largely due to improved anti-rejection medications.
“A good living donor candidate is someone who is healthy, well-informed and makes a voluntary decision to donate one of their kidneys. Living donors must be over 18 and usually less than 70 years of age. They must be in good general health . . .”
So if you are older than 18, you are eligible to be a kidney donor.
While it is preferred that donors be under the age of 70, there are stories of donors who have been older. Health, both physical and mental, plays a huge role in donor eligibility, no matter the age.
When it comes to children, it would seem that having a live donor is the best option.
A 1982 report published in The Journal of Pediatrics reached this conclusion:
“We conclude that because of donor availability, capacity for good donor-recipient matching, and minimization of time on dialysis, transplantation of adult kidneys into pediatric patients is preferable to awaiting the relatively uncommon pediatric cadaver donor. We further conclude that the procedure is warranted.”
Despite the passage of time, it doesn’t seem that there has been any change to that conclusion.
Meanwhile, there is this from webmd.com:
“The reason most hospitals suggest an age minimum of 18 for kidney donors isn’t because a young kidney is too small. Studies have shown that a kidney from a six-year-old is all right to transplant into an adult.
“Instead, the main reason is that people under 18 are minors and can’t legally give their ‘informed consent’ proving that they agree to the procedure. Also, some genetic kidney diseases won’t have started to cause symptoms yet in young children and teenagers, so it’s hard to know if their kidneys may be affected by disease. . . .
“Kidneys from younger donors seem to work better over the long term. But people who get older kidneys are just as likely to be alive five years after a transplant as those who receive younger kidneys. Plus, the chances of complications from the procedure, and of organ rejection — when someone’s immune system attacks their new kidney — are the same with kidneys from all age groups.
“The takeaway from these studies is that kidneys from older donors can work, but younger people in need of a kidney may want to consider being matched with younger donors.”
There also is this, from stanfordchildrens.org: “A child older than age two can generally receive an adult kidney. There is usually enough space in the child’s belly for the new kidney to fit.”
Yes, it is that time of the year, again.
I am married to a woman who had a kidney transplant on Sept. 23, 2013. That doesn’t mean she has been cured of kidney disease; there isn’t a cure.
Having had a transplant, she must take anti-rejection medications in order to keep her system from rejecting the foreign object that now lives in the lower right side of her abdomen. Some of those medications — she takes them every 12 hours — are immunosuppressants, so her immune system is compromised.
So, yes, I get an annual flu shot. In fact, I got poked on Friday.
You have no idea how many people who are walking around out there have suppressed immune systems or are unable to get a flu shot for medical reasons.
Here is Nicole Basta of the U of Minnesota, the senior author of a study on “herd immunity,” in a story by Lisa Rapaport of Reuters:
“The more people who are vaccinated in a community, the lower the risk that influenza will be able to spread even if the vaccine does not perfectly protect against the disease.
“Influenza spreads by creating chains of transmission whereby one infected person infects additional people and those individuals infect others with whom they come in contact.”
Rapaport’s story is right here.