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“How do I ask someone to help save a life?”

As clinical manager at the Fresenius Medical Care dialysis center in Parsippany, New Jersey, Barbara Miller knew first-hand about the hopes and challenges renal patients face while waiting for a transplant. What she was not prepared for was the joy and gratitude she felt when she decided to become a living donor. The Fresenius Medical Care Foundation aims to encourage more people to help change lives in this way.

When her grandson Danny was born with kidney disease in January 2010, Barbara Miller’s work offering professional, yet compassionate care as a nurse for renal patients at her dialysis clinic suddenly took on a deeply personal meaning. Her grandson required around-the-clock-care and spent the first five months of his life in a hospital before finally being allowed home. The newborn’s ordeal inspired Miller, clinical manager at the Fresenius Medical Care dialysis center in Parsippany, New Jersey, to volunteer to be a living donor for her newest family member. “Watching Danny struggle was definitely the catalyst,” she remembers.

Barbara Miller and grandson
A proud grandmother: Miller poses with ten-year-old grandson Danny in the garden outside her home in New Jersey.

Empowerment paves the way

I wanted to give something back and share the good karma.

Barbara Miller
Clinical Manager, Fresenius Medical Care

The waiting list keeps growing

Easier testing for potential donors

The first grant provided by the Foundation went to Donate Life America (DLA), a U.S. nonprofit organization committed to increasing organ donation, to build the first national, universal living donor registry, which is scheduled to go live in the U.S. in 2020. The registry is intended to be a hub for anyone interested in becoming a living donor. As such, it would augment the procedure currently used by transplant centers and hospital networks around the country, which require potential donors to take the time to drive to a chosen location for initial consultation and tests.

With the Foundation’s financial support, DLA will also create an easy-to-use home testing kit for potential living donors, which is expected to be released at the same time as the registry. Using a saliva sample similar to those already offered by ancestry research companies, the kit is designed to provide fast, consumer- friendly screening that will be distributed to patients for use by friends and family members. Once the test has been sent in, the results can be converted to a possible match efficiently and safely. The kit stands to greatly expand the pool of potential matches and cut the average wait time to receive a kidney. The kit and registry combined have the potential to double the number of living donors within a year, estimates Jessie Newman, Fresenius Medical Care North America’s Director of Community Relations.

Barbara Miller in the dialysis center in Parsippany
Passionate and committed: Barbara Miller has worked as a nurse for renal patients for two decades.

The courage to ask

Fresenius Medical Care Foundation

 “THE BIG ASK – THE BIG GIVE” (BABG) is the National Kidney Foundation’s free platform of programs, resources and support for kidney patients and their families. It helps them overcome their inhibitions to share their need with family, friends, and members of their community to find a living donor. BABG includes a four-hour, in-person training that teaches patients through seven strategies to tell their story and let people know how they can help. The National Kidney Foundation launched the BABG in-person training in 2018. Thanks to support from the Fresenius Medical Care Foundation, it was expanded to an additional 15 locations in the U.S. in 2019 and 2020. To learn more about the Fresenius Medical Care Foundation click here.

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