Daughter driven to find kidney for dad


Melissa Miller is taking her search for a kidney for her father, 52-year-old William Miller, on the road with a plea to the public to call her at 652-6526 if they have A Positive or O blood that could be a potential match. (Submitted photo)

Melissa Miller is taking her search for a kidney for her father, 52-year-old William Miller, on the road with a plea to the public to call her at 652-6526 if they have A Positive or O blood that could be a potential match. (Submitted photo)

DOVER –– Melissa Miller of Smyrna is in a desperate search of a kidney for her 52-year-old father, William Miller.

Ms. Miller has gone as far as requesting a donor’s help through a message written on the back of her car window.

“He was born with one kidney and has been on dialysis for five years now and it’s becoming clear that the toll it’s taking on his body is increasing,” Ms. Miller said.

Her parents always imagined their retirement giving them plenty of time to spend with their grandkids and to travel, but Mr. Miller’s limited activity make playing with his 4-year-old grandson difficult and his three five-hour dialysis sessions per week make it nearly impossible to go out of town.

“If there’s a way they can plan to go somewhere with a dialysis center, that could work, as long as it’s scheduled in advance but it completely eliminates the possibility of traveling outside the country,” Ms. Miller said.

Dialysis is a procedure that cleans the blood and removes toxins that the kidneys are no longer able to due to their reduced functionality.

The dialysis process involves pumping blood out of the body, to be cleansed through a machine and injecting it back into the patient. Although dialysis is effective to keep patients healthy and extend their lives, it can cause side effects like nausea, vomiting, fatigue and may require the patient to follow a special diet.

For patients like Mr. Miller that require dialysis, the treatment cannot be stopped unless a transplant is received. Discontinuing dialysis treatment can cause an excess of fluid in the body and a build up of toxins that can be life threatening, causing death in a few weeks or only a couple of days depending on the kidneys’ functionality.

Even traveling locally or to a location with a dialysis center could mean Mr. Miller missing out on an opportunity for a transplant. He’s been on the list since 2013.

“If you’re next on the transplant list, they call you and you have to be there right away to get it,” Ms. Miller said. “They’re not going to wait for you to come back from your vacation. If he’s not at home, he’s going to be bumped down the list.”

Before reaching out to friends and the community, Ms. Miller was tested at Christiana Care’s Transplant Center to see if she is a match and she is, but after further testing, she was advised not to donate to her father because the complications a donation could cause for her own pre-existing medical conditions.

“I’m willing to do anything for my family and it breaks my heart that I’m not able to help my dad with this, especially since it’s something that could save his life,” she said.

When she first asked family friends and neighbors, there were plenty of volunteers but all backed out when the conversation became serious.

“People say they’re willing to donate,” Ms. Miller said. “It’s easy to say, but when it comes down to it, no one is actually up for it.”

So last week, in a plea to find a kidney for her father, Ms. Miller wrote a message on her car asking for a donation from anyone with and an A Positive or O blood type. She has yet to receive any calls.

To talk to Ms. Miller about becoming a kidney donor for her father, call 632-6526. Tests for compatibility will be run at Christiana Care.

Organ donation in the U.S.

Mr. Miller is only one of more than 100,000 Americans waiting for a kidney transplant. Transplants for organs, skin and tissue can come from living or deceased donors.

When it comes to deceased donors (indicated on driver’s licenses and other state-issued identification), hospitals are required by law to notify the local organ procurement organization (OPO) of the impending death of a patient.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the call is only made after all lifesaving measures have been taken and the donor has been declared brain dead by a neurosurgeon or neurologist. Brain death is not the same as a coma; it means the body can no longer perform the most basic functions, even breathing, without the assistance of a machine. Brain death is irreversible.

The deceased individual is then tested to determine if they are an eligible donor (only if they have legally registered as a donor). Not all donors may be eligible but if they are, the OPO contacts the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network which will find the closest match.

Considerations taken in determining a recipient include blood type, tissue type, height, and weight, the length of time the patient has been waiting, the severity of the patient’s illness, and the distance between the donor’s and the recipient’s hospitals. Aspects not taken into account are race, gender, income or social status.

While a recipient is being determined, the donor is maintained on life support and the condition of each organ is monitored by doctors and regular updates are given to the OPO.

Once a recipient is determined, a surgical team takes the donor to the operating room where organs and tissues are recovered in the same manner as any other surgery. HHS mandates that all incisions are surgically closed, so the surgical scars do not interfere with open-casket funerals.

Organs remain viable for only a short period of time once outside the body so time is of the essence. The OPO is responsible for arranging transport and in many cases, the recipient is already prepped for surgery or in the operating room by the time the organ arrives.

Although some organs may travel a great distance by airplane, helicopter or ambulances, HHS reports that more than 75 percent of donations go to local recipients.

Once the recipient comes out of surgery, the process isn’t over. Recovery usually requires a hospital stay and a strict regimen of temporary anti-rejection drugs. The cost of a transplant can also be a burden with HHS reporting the average cost of transplantation in 2011 ranging from $262,000 for a single kidney to over $1,148,000 for a heart and lung transplant. Some of the cost may be covered by insurance, so it is important to choose a transplant center that takes your insurance.

To register as an organ donor with the state, visit services.dmv.de.gov/donor/. You can also register to be an organ donor when you renew your license.

If you are unsure if you are a registered donor, donor registration is indicated on a Delaware license by a heart located to the bottom right of the ID photo.

More information about organ donation can be found online at organdonor.gov.


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