By Angie Anaya Borgedalen | Liberty Tribune
For about a year and a half, Diane Ehren-Kipping endured a painful right foot.
Tired of suffering, she went to a podiatrist, who prescribed anti-inflammatory medication, steroid injections and inserts in her shoes to deal with the persistent pain of what was thought to be plantar fasciitis.
A registered nurse at Liberty Hospital who is now the coordinator of employee health, Ehren-Kipping at the time worked 12-hour shifts and blamed being on her feet for so many hours for the pain.
“But nothing I did was working,” she said. “It just kept getting worse and worse.”
Finally, her doctor suggested getting her foot X-rayed. Luckily the X-ray included her ankle.
“The X-ray revealed something unusual on the tibia and the doctor ordered an MRI and a bone scan,” Ehren-Kipping said.
She said Dr. Howard Rosenthal from the Mid-America Sarcoma Institute in Overland Park, Kan., an orthopedic surgeon, called to tell her the bad news.
“I remember distinctly he called at 5 p.m. on a Friday and said, ‘I don’t know how to tell you this, but you have a bone tumor,’” she said. “At that time we didn’t know if it was malignant or benign.”
She soon learned that the tumor was not cancerous but she had a disease called fibrous dysplasia, which destroy normal healthy bone and replaces it with scar-like fibrous tissue that weakens the bone, making it susceptible to fractures.
A whole body scan showed that she also had the disease in other bones, including her pelvis and ribs. Surprisingly, Ehren-Kipping said she had never had a broken bone. It is not known what causes the disease and it is not considered genetic, she said, but it can become quite debilitating if left untreated.
To treat her problem, a portion of bone was harvested from a cadaver. The donor bone was mixed with bone from her own leg and allowed to fuse, strengthening her leg and improving her ability to walk.
“It looked like shredded up crab meat,” she said.
Ehren-Kipping said she is so grateful that someone decided to donate their organs and tissue to help her and others.
Ehren-Kipping described herself as a “very private person” but thought the need to speak up about her health was imperative to bring awareness of the need for donors.
From working in the emergency room, Ehren-Kipping said she had experienced both sides: as the donor family and as a recipient. She said she often approached grieving families about donating the organs and tissue of their loved ones who had died.
“About 50 percent would agree to do it,” she said. “It was hard to do.”
Ehren-Kipping’s driver’s license indicates that she is a donor. Not only can a donor save as many as eight lives by donating their organs, she said countless others could benefit from the donor’s tendons, bones, intestines, corneas and other body parts.
“Fifty people can potentially benefit from one donor,” she said. “If only one person decides to do it, it’s so worth it.”
BY THE NUMBERS
As of February of this year, there were more than 110,200 patients waiting for an organ transplant in the United States, and every day 19 people on the waiting list die while waiting for an organ, according to MatchingDonors.com.
Dispelling Transplant Myths
According to a number of websites, there are numerous myths about being an organ donor. Here are three top myths:
Myth: I don’t need to tell my family about my wish to donate because I’ve signed a donor card and put a sticker on my driver’s license.
Fact: Your family and next-of-kin will be consulted before any organs or tissues are recovered, and their wishes will be honored. Tell your family now if you wish to donate.
Myth: If I donate, I won’t be able to have an open-casket funeral.
Fact: Donated organs are removed surgically. Careful attention is made so that an open casket and funeral is still an option.
Myth: I’m much too old to donate. The issue doesn’t apply to me.
Fact: Strict age limits for organ and tissue donation no longer exist. Medical professionals would be called upon to decide which of your organs and/or tissues would be suitable for transplantation.