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Trying to save a life

Kidney donation canceled, no longer compatible

By KELLY MAILE Staff Writer Published: July 7, 2017 4:00 AM
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Jace McMillan was days away from resuming a normal life. After seven months of waiting, Wende Campbell of Kent was set to donate one of her kidneys to McMillan. The surgery was to have taken place on Wednesday, but was cancelled because the two are no longer compatible.

"We were ready," said McMillan, 58, after work at Sue Nelson Designs in downtown Kent. "We thought everything was set. We went for testing and on Friday everything fell through. I had more antibodies than I had before, so now it won't work. It's hard."

McMillan was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 9. The disease took most of his vision in his early 20s and led him to develop kidney failure in his 30s.

"My first transplant was 22 years ago," McMillan said. "My kidney lasted 21 years, which is twice as long as it's supposed to. A week after my 21st anniversary, they just quit."

McMillan has been on a waiting list for a kidney for over a year. After two people were tested and weren't a match, he turned to social media for help. Campbell, who was in a church youth group led by McMillan when she was a teenager, wanted to donate one of her kidneys after seeing his post in December.

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"When we were very young, my husband and I had a daughter that passed away unexpectedly," Campbell said. "They asked us if we wanted to donate her organs, but it was such a shock that we couldn't handle that at the time and that is something I always regretted because so many people could have been helped by her. I thought if I ever had the opportunity to donate, I would."

McMillan works part-time and relies on his mother for transportation. He needs dialysis four hours a day three times a week until he gets a new kidney.

"The days of dialysis you don't do much of anything else," he said. "I usually go home and sleep. It takes everything out of that that day. If I don't rest, I get nauseated. I don't eat much that day. The days in between I work and that's it."

McMillan and Campbell are trying to get on a paired donation list, which would allow them to swap kidneys with another donor and recipient, but that could take up to two years. McMillan's only other option is to find another donor.

"People get a little freaked out about (donating), that their whole life is going to change immensely if they donate a kidney and it doesn't," McMillan said.

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Campbell, who runs a daycare out of her home, would have had an eight-week recovery period and then would have gone back to her normal life. All of her medical costs would have been covered by McMillan's insurance.

"If this would have happened I'm grateful that Jace would have got his regular life back. I know the sorrow a mom has losing a child and I didn't want his mom to go through that, so if you can help you're helping a whole community," she said.

One organ donor can save eight lives, according to United Network for Organ Sharing.

"When I got my first kidney the lady had died from a blunt head trauma," McMillan said. "The family said 'Take what you can.' There were three people in the hospital. I was at UH. I got the kidney, a 17-year-old boy got the liver and the heart and lungs went to Cleveland Clinic. I don't think they realize the impact it has on other people's lives."

More than 100,000 people in the U.S. are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant, according to UNOS. On average, 20 people die each day while waiting for a transplant.

"You can donate to anybody that needs a kidney," McMillan said. "You'd be surprised how young these people are on dialysis. People coming in in their late 20s and early 30s coming in for dialysis. Think what a kidney would do for them."

Its been over a year, but McMillan remains hopeful.

"Things happen for a reason," he said. "I don't know why, but this wasn't supposed to be right now. Maybe multiple people can get kidneys now if the new program works."

For more information or to donate, call University Hospitals Transplant Institute at 216-844-3689.


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