Jordan Shaw, at the age of 16, with his first kidney donor, Tom Falsey.
Waiting for kidney, Omahan sends message
Jordan Shaw knows his time will come again.
It’s not that he has grown tired of waiting. That’s not the way he is wired. But the longer Shaw waits, the more tired he feels and the less energy he has for everyday life.
In 2003, when he was a 16-year-old sophomore at Westside High School, Shaw was the recipient of a kidney transplanted from a living donor. During the past year, his body has started to reject that organ.
Shaw’s doctor has told him that his kidney is now functioning at about 10 percent of its capability. So the 22-year-old Omahan once again is waiting to find the right match so he can undergo another kidney transplant.
“I’m not discouraged, because I understand how this works and I know it’s going to happen,” Shaw said. “But it’s so physically draining, and it’s tough just to work and do my job. I go home and I just sleep. I don’t have the energy to go out with friends or do much of anything.”
Shaw was at the University of Nebraska at Omaha on Thursday, putting a young and human face on an issue he said doesn’t resonate with enough college-age kids. UNO’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America this week held its annual drive to raise awareness about the importance of organ donation, and Shaw was happy to lend his voice to the cause.
As part of the chapter’s participation in the National Organ Donor Awareness Competition, the public relations students set up shop outside the Milo Bail Student Center. They handed out gift bags to all students who signed up to become organ donors as well as to those who already were registered donors.
In the first hour of the event, chapter members signed up 32 new donors and took signatures from 94 others who already were registered as donors.
“People on campus usually are really positive about becoming a donor once you talk to them,” said Jennifer Lane, a member of Maverick PR and the event’s coordinator. “Once they figure out what it is, they’re receptive.”
When he was still in high school, Shaw received national and local attention after getting a kidney transplant from donor Tom Falsey of Overland Park, Kan. Falsey was the first altruistic living kidney donor at the Nebraska Medical Center.
Altruistic donors are those who are willing to give a kidney to a stranger. Most kidney transplants come from family members, friends or deceased donors, and Shaw still gets choked up when he rattles off the statistics on organ donations.
According to the Nebraska Organ Recovery System, more than 100,000 people are on the waiting list for an organ transplant in the United States. That includes 490 Nebraskans overall and 50 Nebraskans between the ages of 18 and 34.
A Donate Life America report estimates that an average of 20 people die each day from the lack of available organs for transplant. The U.S. government estimates that 10,000 to 14,000 people who die each year meet the criteria for organ donation but are not registered donors.
Shaw often speaks as an organ donor advocate. His message is simple: Organ donation is free, easy and something every person should do.
Shaw also works full time with more than 80 kids, from kindergarten through fifth grade, at the Millard Education Foundation Kids Network day care.
He had planned to enroll at UNO before his health took a turn for the worse. He still hopes to attend college eventually and to study pediatric nursing.
“I love my job, and I love working with kids,” Shaw said. “But you go home, and you’re just wiped out. You just have to find a way to get through.
“I love working to help others, and I’m not going to quit.”