CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - April is National Donate Life Month which encourages people to register as organ, eye and tissue donors, and to celebrate those that have saved lives through the gift on donation.
The Medical University of South Carolina Health is raising awareness about its Living Donor Program for kidney transplants.
Right now, there are more than 100,000 people on the national waiting list for a kidney. MUSC officials say they have the 10th largest volume of kidney transplants in the nation.
In 2011, Everett German was one of those kidney transplant recipients. His younger sister became his living donor.
He says he learned that he was having issues with his kidney after having vision problems.
“I had blurred vision. I thought at that time it kind of came along because of constantly staring at a computer monitor,” German said. “I went to an optometrist to see if I needed glasses and they said something else is going on.”
The doctor advised him to get his blood pressure checked.
“My blood pressure was 220/160, I literally was a walking stroke,” German said. “I immediately got checked in here to MUSC. At that time, they discovered it was the hypertension and basically started that process. My kidney function was 12 percent.”
He says about five years later he needed a kidney transplant.
According to Donate Life, South Carolina has the longest transplant waiting list for kidneys. It says most of those people waiting are African Americans.
German encourages people to go to the doctor regularly, eat healthier and to drink more water.
“You know your body better than anyone else. If something doesn’t feel right, get it checked out,” German said.
Dr. Vinayak Rohan is a transplant surgeon at MUSC and an assistant professor of surgery and Surgical Director of Pancreas Transplant.
He’s performed nearly 500 transplants.
Rohan says about 65 percent of patients waiting on an organ at MUSC, specifically a kidney, are African Americans.
"The statistic goes, every minute there are 10 people added to the transplant list and there are 22 people dying every minute waiting for an organ," Rohan said.
He says there are medical and social factors that contribute to African Americans having higher rates of kidney failure. He says African Americans have higher rates of diabetes and hypertension. He says they can also become more susceptible because of genetics.
Doctors recommend that people visit the doctor regularly to remain proactive rather than reactive.
"That way you can find out problems in the early stage, mitigate the risk factors." Rohan said.
To become a living donor you'll have go through screenings to determine that you're suitable.
If you’d like to learn more or to start the living donor process you can contact MUSC at 843-792-5097 or visit this link.
There is no cost to the donor for the procedure and you don't have to be a relative of the recipient to give.
The transplant recipient's insurance will cover general expenses.
“You come here everyday, you go through a process then you see a patient preoperatively how they are, and later on after a few years they are different people,” Rohan said. “You see a new energy. It makes every day coming here worthwhile because you feel that I’m not just doing my job, it’s all worthwhile.”