DRUMS, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — More than 93,000 people are currently on the deceased donor kidney transplant waiting list. Patients are prioritized based on how long they’ve been waiting as well as certain health criteria.
That health criteria includes such things as blood type, immune system activity and being able to tolerate a major surgery. As Eyewitness News Healthbeat reporter Mark Hiller explains, a Drums woman who’s been on and off the transplant waiting list is back on it awaiting the kidney transplant operation she desperately needs.
“I packed the bag on Monday,” said Marcia Cunningham. “I have pajamas,” as she explained some of the items she has ready to go.
All the 45-year-old Drums woman needs now is for her phone to ring that the hospital has a kidney ready for transplant. Mrs. Cunningham is in dire need because of polycistic kidney disease which is a health battle she’s fought since she was nine.
“It’s taken me out of the work world. I’ve lost both of my kidneys,” Mrs. Cunningham said.
Her kidneys removed in 2014 were so diseased with fluid and cysts, they were more than 15 times the normal size. And years of dialysis and medication robbed her bones of calcium.
“So, I could step down and break a bone in my foot. I coughed last week and I broke a rib,” Mrs. Cunningham said.
She was on the kidney transplant waiting list for six years until 2018. “They considered me to be high risk for their transplant,” said Mrs. Cunningham who was ready to give up but her husband, Leon, wasn’t having it.
“He called my mom, my brothers, my kids and they all did an intervention here at the house,” Mrs. Cunningham said.
Screened by Hershey Medical Center, she was placed back on the kidney transplant waiting list February 17th as high priority.
Gift of Life Donor Program Vice President of Clinical Services Richard Hasz said, “Unfortunately, 20 people die each day because an organ wasn’t available but we have the cure and that cure is for people to say yes to donation.”
Mrs. Cunningham, who is nicknamed Wonder Woman, has a painting of the female superhero in her home to inspire her.
“So, I keep that on the wall so I know as I’m going around during the day that I’ve got to keep going,” she said.
This mother of four and grandmother of two knows she is on borrowed time each day that passes on the transplant waiting list but she says just getting back on the list gives her hope.
“I cried,” she said. “I just want to be able to play with my grand kids and go places with my family.”
Mrs. Cunningham is ready to go at a moment’s notice for life saving transplantation surgery at Hershey Medical Center. To learn about becoming a living transplant donor for Mrs. Cunningham click here. To learn about the importance of organ donation and registering with Gift of Life, click here.