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SC woman in dire need of living kidney donor

Published: Nov. 25, 2021 at 5:57 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 25, 2021 at 9:18 PM EST
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (WYFF) - An Upstate couple is on a quest for a living kidney donor and in the spirit of the holidays, they’re hoping they can find a match.

“To have my life back would mean everything to me,” Liz Lishka says.

Lishka says she was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease 10 years ago. Last year, she said it progressed to stage four.

“She’s tired a lot,” Liz’s husband, Lee, says. “Hasn’t had a quality of life in well over a year.”

Lishka says she’s been on the transplant list at MUSC in Charleston since March.

“And right away, I was told by my team of doctors that my best chance of survival is to get a living kidney donor,” she says.

Doctors say a kidney from a living donor is the best option for the recipient’s quality and length of life, opposed to dialysis or a kidney from a deceased donor.

“It gives you the longest length of life of any of the options statistically, but also, it’s a quicker recovery and it’s a better quality of life quicker,” Prisma Health transplant surgeon Dr. Todd Merchen says.

Merchen is the director of Prisma Health’s new kidney transplant program.

After Lishka was told she needed to find a living kidney donor, she says she had six potential donors in friends and family almost immediately.

“We had no idea that, oh you get a donor,” she says. “You’re a shoe-in. You go on your merry way. You have the transplant and you’re good to go. Well, six tries later.”

Lishka says it feels like he and his wife keep getting the rug pulled out from under them.

“The average wait for a deceased donor kidney, depending on your blood type may be anywhere from two to six years or even longer,” Prisma Health’s Dr. Keith Superdock says.

Superdock is also part of Prisma’s new transplant program. He said there are more than 100,000 people in the country on the transplant list and more than 90,000 are in need of a kidney.

He says there are three main criteria someone must fit to become a living donor.

“They would have to have completely normal kidney function by all measures, both structural normal kidneys, as well as normal blood tests, normal urine tests, etc.,” Superdock says. “The second qualification they would have to meet is that they would have no diseases that could be transmitted to their recipient. So if they had an infection of some sort or a cancer, it would be unsafe for them to give a kidney to their intended recipient. And thirdly, they would have to have no major health issues that would destroy their remaining kidney.”

Doctors say a potential donor will first go through a general health screening over the phone, followed by blood and urine tests, then a meeting with a social worker, doctor and surgeon.

Superdock says it’s not crucial to be a perfect match nowadays in order to donate to someone.

“Nowadays, our immunosuppression is so good that the degree of match really does not need to be that stringent,” Superdock says.

Doctors say the procedure is minimally invasive and the majority of the time, without any complications.

“The living donor-recipient doesn’t wait in line for an organ transplant,” Merchen says.

Doctors say a living donor keeps a recipient from waiting in line on the transplant list they may never make it off of.

“I would have my life back,” Lishka says. “I just would be so appreciative and grateful.”

If you’re interested in helping, you can contact the MUSC Health Transplant Center at 843-792-5097 or livedonor@musc.edu.

You can also find more information about becoming a living donor at MUSC or at Prisma Health.

Doctors say you can also join a paired exchange program where, if you are not a direct match, you can donate to someone else in need in exchange for a donor match for your loved one.

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