AMU Editor's Pick Original Veterans

Matching Kidney Donors with Veterans in Need

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Since 1962, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has offered kidney transplantation services, including comprehensive pre-transplant and follow-up care, coverage of immunosuppressant medication, and travel benefits (including lodging) for veterans, living kidney donors and their caregivers.

However, according to the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, “the kidney transplant rate was lower among the VA-listed patients than among the privately insured or Medicare cohorts, but it was comparable with that of the Medicaid cohort. This difference in overall rate was primarily driven by a much lower frequency of living donor transplants among the VATC [Veterans Affairs Transplant Center] patients.”

Currently, there are nearly 2,000 veterans awaiting a life-saving kidney transplant at either a VA center or military hospital in the U.S. with many more awaiting transplant at private medical facilities.

Fortunately, there are organizations out there that can help.

One such nonprofit, DOVE, has vowed to find, educate, screen and support prospective living donors and match these donors through nationwide campaigns and outreach events to a veteran awaiting a transplant.

DOVE tells the story of Victor Marinez, a 41-year-old married father of four who proudly served as a Staff Sergeant in the Marine Corps for over 12 years. Marinez continues to protect our country by serving as a cybersecurity engineer at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

Marinez has a chronic kidney condition called focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), a disease in which scar tissue develops on the parts of the kidneys that filter waste from the blood (glomeruli). This condition has permanently damaged his kidneys. He is now reliant on daily dialysis treatments to keep him alive.

DOVE’s mission is to find a living kidney donor that would free him from the dialysis machine and give him back a more normal life. A living kidney donor would give Marinez the chance to get his energy and vitality back.

According to the VA, each year more than 600,000 veterans enrolled in VA health care receive treatment for chronic kidney disease. Transplants represent the best clinical option for veterans because kidneys from living donors last longer and remove the need for dialysis almost immediately after surgery.

Interested in finding out more about kidney donation? You can contact DOVE at BeADoveDonor@dovetransplant.org or by phone at 646-245-2894.

Wes O’Donnell is an Army and Air Force veteran and writer covering military and tech topics. As a sought-after professional speaker, Wes has presented at U.S. Air Force Academy, Fortune 500 companies, and TEDx, covering trending topics from data visualization to leadership and veterans’ advocacy. As a filmmaker, he directed the award-winning short film, “Memorial Day.”

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