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