Living Lesson for Organ Donation

Less than three weeks ago, Dr. Loran Smith was teaching his political science classes like always. But his life was changing.

"I had an inherited genetic disease called polycystic kidney disease where the kidneys develop cysts," Smith said.

He needed a transplant. Smith was placed on the waiting list in March, had his kidneys removed in July, and was undergoing dialysis three days a week.

November third, at 1:30 a.m., he got the call. Doctors had a kidney. Smith called a member of the fraternity he advises to drive him to KU Medical Center.

"He kept telling me all this and I said when do you want me there? Because he was trying to sell me this kidney!" Smith laughs.

Smith is one of the lucky ones.

"13 people die every day waiting for a life-saving organ transplant," said Ginney Woods, organ procurement coordinator at Stormont-Vail HealthCare.

Woods said the number of organ donors has stayed the same, while demand has gone up.

"With the rise in diabetes and hypertension, more people need kidney transplants," Woods said. "More liver diseases lead to more liver transplants. More people are readily making that decision to be transplant patients."

People like doctor Smith. Less than two weeks after surgery, he's talking politics, doing odds and ends back at Washburn.

"I may be pushing the envelope a bit," Smith admits, but says he really is taking it easy and watching himself.

Smith knows he's lucky, and though his life right now includes taking it easy and 22 pills a day, Smith wouldn't have it any other way.

"Most people don't think about it," Smith said. "I think people are hesitant about the notion of someone harvesting their organs. But it does allow a person to extend their life.

"A kidney transplant truly is a gift of life."

Woods said there are many myths about organ donation that may scare people off. The truths:

*Doctors will work just as hard to save you if you're a donor
*A donor family doesn't have to pay any extra money for the procedures
*You can also still have an open-casket funeral - you can't see stitches from the recovery process
*Tell your family you want to be a donor - they're the ones who have the ultimate say when you can't speak for yourself

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