Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Route to Transplant Complex Getting on List for Donor Organ Just the Start

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Route to Transplant Complex Getting on List for Donor Organ Just the Start

Article excerpt

Byline: P. Douglas Filaroski, Times-Union staff writer

Ruth Keith lost a lifelong battle when doctors diagnosed total kidney failure. Now she's trying to win the war with a short supply of transplantable organs.

"It was really upsetting when it happened," said Keith, a 52-year-old mother from Jacksonville. "But now there is a glimmer of hope."

Transplantation is often a treatment of last resort. Doctors prescribe it for patients like Keith for whom there is no other cure and who would otherwise die.

Navigating the list for an organ transplant is a complex, comprehensive and sometimes confusing process.

Once a patient has been referred to a doctor who specializes in transplants, she receives an evaluation that will determine where she is placed on the waiting list.

The evaluation considers her medical condition, attitude, psychological state and history with drugs or tobacco.

Patients unwilling to give up drugs, alcohol or tobacco usually won't be considered for use of a precious resource: donated human organs.

"Patients need to comply with a complex medical regimen," said Jeffrey Steers, a transplant surgeon at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. "If they have a poor record of compliance going in, that has to be taken very seriously into consideration."

Lack of insurance is very often a deal breaker for transplants, which typically cost tens of thousands of dollars, according to physicians and patients.

"If you don't have it, you're out to lunch," said Greg Gaines, a Jacksonville financial planner. Gaines began counseling patients after his son had his first of three liver transplants in 1985.

Once an evaluation is done, it is sent to the United Network for Organ Sharing in Richmond, Va., which logs the patient's condition, blood type, tissue type, size and age.

Depending on the organ, the center ranks transplant candidates based on the patient's health or how long they have been on the waiting list.

With hearts, a patient's condition is most important. With kidneys, time on the list and a blood match are more important because patients can stay alive via dialysis.

Keith, 52 was diagnosed with total kidney failure in September, underwent evaluations and was put on the list in February. …

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