February 17, 2013

Bill Nemitz: Heart recipient now needs a kidney

(Continued from page 1)

Andy Loman, 65, of Augusta, who had a heart transplant in 2009, is asking people at least to consider the whole concept of organ donation.

Courtesy file photo

(Nationally, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplant Patient Network, 95,321 Americans are waiting for kidneys.)

Soon, Loman expects to join that agonizingly long line.

He thought long and hard about going public, again, with his story. But after his own family members were ruled out due to hypertension and other issues, Loman decided he had lots to gain and little to lose by at least asking people to take a moment and consider the whole concept of organ donation.

“I’m not saying, ‘Hey, world, rally around and consider donating your kidney to me,’” Loman said. “But if you haven’t checked (the organ donor option) on your license, at least do that. At the very least, do that.”

Then again, if someone happens to have Type A blood like Loman’s and has a kidney they can live without, he’s all ears.

Still, who would do such a thing?

“Crazy people – like me,” replied Liz LaPoint, 43, with a chuckle Saturday from her home in Rochester, N.H. “I like to tell people I donated to a guy I met at a party. Which is true.”

His name is Ken. He’s in his early 30s, lives in Maine and is an old college friend of LaPoint’s husband’s cousin.

LaPoint crossed paths with Ken at the cousin’s birthday party back in 2011. The small talk segued into his back story – without a kidney transplant, Ken confided, he was a goner.

“Well, then,” said LaPoint, recalling a childhood friend who lived a perfectly normal life after being born with just one kidney, “I’ll give you one of mine!”

“Yeah,” replied Ken. “Tell me that when you don’t have a beer in your hand.”

Turns out LaPoint, a researcher with the U.S. Forest Service who has no children, was serious. And so in November 2011, she checked into Maine Medical Center and, just like that, saved a life.

She was out of the hospital the next day – most donors stay for two or three.

She was back at work in a month – federal employees get 30 days paid leave for live organ donation.

It didn’t cost her a cent – any and all medical costs stemming from live organ donation are covered by the recipient’s insurance.

And lest there be any lingering doubt about how giving up a kidney might affect one’s quality of life, let the record show that LaPoint completed the Boston Marathon last spring and has never felt better – in more ways than one.

“I’m doing fine,” she reported. Ken, by the way, is too.

So why did she do such a thing for a complete stranger?

“Because I could,” replied LaPoint. “Why wouldn’t you make that decision and change someone’s life completely? How often do you get an opportunity like that?”

Which brings us back to Andy Loman – and all the others for whom kidney dialysis, at its torturous best, only delays the inevitable.

Loman needs only to put his hand over his steadily beating heart to understand that nothing lasts forever. And he appreciates that organ donation in any form is “a very personal choice” for every last one of us.

But that kidney waiting list is, quite literally, a matter of life and death. And Loman, like those standing in line ahead of him, much prefers the former.

“I’ve contributed to society and I want to continue to contribute,” Loman said. “That’s the bottom line.”

So back to that question, crazy as it might sound:

Can anyone out there spare a kidney?

Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:

bnemitz@mainetoday.com

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