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An advocate for live donation


Awaiting a kidney transplant, Michelle Saddoris hopes to raise awareness of kidney disease, benefits of live organ donation

More than 2 million people have kidney disease. That is more than the 1.6 million people with various forms of cancer, but Michelle Saddoris said kidney disease is the “wicked little step sister of cancer.”

“People don’t want to talk about it,” Saddoris said. “They don’t want to think about it, they don’t want to know it exists, so it makes it hard.”

She has been living with polycystic kidney disease for 23 years. In 2013, she was put on the Legacy Transplant List for a kidney.

“The responses I get (when people find out I have kidney disease), some of the responses are just ridiculous,” she said. “(I’ve heard) ‘I had a kidney infection once, it hurt,’ or `My kid developed acid reflux so she had to go to the doctor a lot, so I totally know what you’re going through,’ or `Well, isn’t there something they can do to cure it?’”by: GARY ALLEN - Hidden disease - Michelle Saddoris may not look ill, but she has Stage V polycystic kidney       disease and is awaiting a  kidney    transplant. She said one of the issues with the disease is people don't think she, and others with the disease, are sick.

She said one of the biggest issues for her is raising awareness about the disease so when her two daughters — who are also at risk for the disease — go through the process, it’s easier for them.

“When it’s their turn, (I don’t want) them to have to live behind it,” she said. “It’s like a big, dark secret. I’ve had people treat me like I’m contagious, or fragile and breakable. I don’t think that any of that should pertain or be an issue to any one with kidney disease. I think they need a little more support than they get.”

She said another issue is that people often don’t think she, or others with kidney disease, are sick.

“We don’t look sick,” she said. “That’s why a lot of people are in denial, because it’s not as obvious as cancer.”

While she’s optimistic that with about a year left to wait for a transplant, she will have a good outlook, she said she hopes to bring living organ donation into the spotlight.

“There’s not enough live donors,” she said. “People can donate liver, tendons, bone marrow, kidneys, there are so many different options.”

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, there are more than 118,000 people waiting for an organ transplant. About 6,000 people a year provide a live donation, most of them kidneys.

“A cadaver donation will get you about five years, but a live donation can last for 20,” Saddoris said.

She said, unfortunately, there are a lot of myths surrounding live organ donation. These include fears that a church may not allow donation.

“That’s not true,” she said. “I’ve looked at all churches, as far as Islam, and none say you can’t donate.”

The cost also shouldn’t be a concern for potential donors.

“It doesn’t cost a donor anything. My insurance covers it and what it doesn’t, I pay,” Saddoris said.

For her case specifically, and another local resident facing kidney transplant, they are looking at fundraising options to pay for the transplant and associated costs.

“You can’t pay for a kidney,” she said. “But my goal is to have my co-pay and deductible saved so I don’t have to worry about that, and if someone did come in and say, ‘Yes I’d like to donate, but taking two to three weeks off would be a hardship,’ my family could have that saved and then help them. I can’t give them the money but my family and friends can. I would want to do something like that as a benefit for them.”

But with a year to wait without a live donation, and Stage Five kidney failure, Saddoris is on dialysis eight hours every day.

“You feel kind of trapped (during dialysis),” she said. “But I do it while I’m sleeping so most of the time I don’t notice, but I do have to get eight hours of sleep. It’s a good punishment.”

To find out more about live donation, visit www.donatelivenw.org.

To donate money to Saddoris or other residents with kidney disease, visit her Facebook page “Are you My Type” at on.fb.me/1gpN39z.