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Format: 04/15/2014
Format: 04/15/2014


Greenville Record-Argus: Greenville woman bides time waiting for kidney

Monday, December 6th, 2010

By Matthew T. Lackey

Darlene R. Cook’s twin nephews were roughhousing one day, when a blow that should have had a negligible effect resulted in one of them taking a trip to the hospital, where a hereditary illness was revealed.

When the boys’ father, Cook’s brother, was found to be the carrier, Cook was tested and diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease.

Now Cook, a Greenville resident, is looking for someone to donate her a kidney.

“Anyone can have (polycystic kidney disease) and not know it,” she said.

The disease causes cysts to grow on the kidneys, and the cysts, in turn, slowly shut the kidney down.

She was diagnosed in 1998, and her condition has worsened during the subsequent 12 years.

Her kidneys have swollen to twice the size of a normal kidney, and they operate at a fraction of the capacity.

The swelling is causing pressure on other internal organs, which is very painful, she said, leading her to spend most days lying down to minimize the pain.

The best solution for Cook would be to find a donor who would give her a healthy kidney, and the sooner the better, she said, because if her condition worsens, she will have to go onto dialysis.

The first step toward a kidney transplant is receiving a recommendation from a nephrologist, a kidney specialist who determines if a transplant is necessary.

“On evaluation, we do a litany of tests,” said Dr. Kusum Tom, a transplant surgeon, at Allegheny General Hospital, to ensure that the patient does not have any latent illnesses that would interfere with the transplant. “We’re trying to make sure they’re healthy enough for the transplant.”

A group of specialists then meets to determine if the patient is an appropriate candidate for the transplant.

Cook has gone through this process and is currently on a list to receive a kidney, but her name is “inactive” because her GFR (Glomerular Filtration Rate), which indicates the level of kidney function, has not dropped below the threshold that would activate her name.

According to Cook, though, it’s a catch-22 because if her GFR drops low enough to activate her on the list, she will have to go onto dialysis, which she said will reduce the chance of a successful transplant.

Tom said dialysis does “not necessarily” reduce the chances of a successful transplant. “The chances of not having a successful transplant are more based on how sick a person is.”

A person with diabetes and high blood pressure, she said, would have a more difficult transplant than someone with polycystic kidney disease.

“Obviously, dialysis is not an ideal situation,” Tom said. “But at least they have a bridge so that they can have a transplant.”

Both Cook’s father and grandfather died of kidney disease.

“There’s more technology now to tell you what it is,” she said.

The average wait time for a kidney transplant across the nation is between three and five years, Tom said. In the Pittsburgh area the average wait time is two to three years.

If a person donated a kidney specifically for her, Cook would by-pass the waiting list and receive that kidney.

“I have to have a sense of humor,” she said. “Very seldom do I have a day where the pain is such that I can bear it.”

Cook is a patient at Allegheny General Hospital, and anyone interested in donating a kidney for her can contact Kim Meyer at 412-359-4729.

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