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Kidneys, the most common organ in need: Staples woman shares experience of two kidney transplants


by Trinity Gruenberg

    Kidney transplants are one of the most common transplant operations in the United States. 

    According to LifeSource, nationally there are 95,292 people waiting for a kidney, more than any other organ. In the Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota region there are 2639 people waiting for a kidney out of 3406 people waiting for an organ. Regionally, 626 kidneys were transplanted out of a total 997 organs transplanted last year. 

    A donated kidney can come  from: a relative, friend, spouse or deceased donor. Blood and tissue tests are performed to see if a person is a match to the recipient. 

    LifeSource works with 279 hospitals in the region, including Tri-County Health Care, CentraCare and Lakewood Health System. 

    “All hospitals are required to have a donation program and assess for donation opportunities with their local donation agency­—that’s simply because there are many more people waiting for a transplant than there are organs available. LifeSource provides professional education and partnership with all of our hospitals to ensure that staff understand their role in the donation process and how they can help save lives through donation. Our hospital partners are critically important to achieving our mission,” said Rebecca Ousley of LifeSource.

    Their mission is to save lives and offer hope and healing through excellence in organ and tissue donation. 

    “We work exclusively with grieving families to offer the opportunity of donation at the time of their loved one’s death. Living donation is managed directly through a patient’s transplant center. The most commonly donated organ for living donation is the kidney; there are living donation programs for both a portion of a person’s liver and a lobe of their lung. Living liver and lung donation is very rare,” explained Ousley.

    The information provided by LifeSource shows that kidneys are in fact the most common organ donation, making them a great need for many. 

    Jennifer Ziegler, 36, of Staples has undergone two kidney transplants in her lifetime. 

    “It’s been a long road,” said J. Ziegler.

    Polycystic kidney disease is the cause for approximately 80 percent of kidney transplants. In most cases, people are born with the disease or have injured the kidney.  

    “Kidney diseases that can cause kidney failure are much more common than other types of organ diseases (such as heart, lung and liver) that can cause end stage diseases for those organs, so there are more people with kidney disease than the other organ diseases,” explained Jennifer Bodner, RN CCTC and outreach coordinator for the Hennepin HealthCare Kidney Transplant Program.

    This was not the case for J. Ziegler. 

    In an extremely rare instance, in 1992, she had strep throat that caused her kidney to fail. 

    She explained that this instance no longer occurs due to the body’s growing resistance and earlier detection from doctors. 

    At 10 years old, Ziegler didn’t know she had strep throat. She would wake up puffy from fluid retention. In 10th grade,  after a year of hospital visits, doctors finally figured out what was happening to her. They told her that her kidneys were failing and she would need a transplant. J. Ziegler was diagnosed with golmerulonephritis, which is what happens when strep takes over your body, and shuts down the nephrons (the microscopic structural and functional unit of the kidney).

    She began peritoneal dialysis (PD) in 1999 at the Staples Hospital, which is a treatment that uses the lining of your abdomen as a cleaning solution called dialysate to clean your blood. The illness overtook her. She had to be homeschooled for three months and was on a liquid diet. . .

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