By MIKE MUNDY | The Press News, Canton, Ohio
However, this portrait is more complex than it appears. Mayor McGee suffers from PKD--Polycystic Kidney Disease--the same disease that claimed the life of his father in 1971 at the age of 42. However, unlike his father, McGee has a good prognosis, providing that he can find a match for a donor kidney.
His father had no such fortune, as he was diagnosed with the disease in the late 1960s.
"Dad was forced to go to the Cleveland Clinic three times a week for dialysis. There he would spend eight hours prone in bed while dialysis was performed. I can still remember those long days. Later, he would become the first home-dialysis patient in Stark County," said McGee.
McGee and his two brothers were tested for this disease, which is largely hereditary. PKD causes cysts to form on the kidneys, thus impairing their function. It is one of the most life-threatening genetic diseases and affects one in 500 people. There is no cure. Children of parents with PKD have a 50- percent chance of suffering from this disease in time. Fortunately for McGee, at that time the initial tests revealed nothing. Nothing became something six years ago.
"One night I suffered severe abdominal pain and we went to the hospital," McGee reported. "This pain proved to be nothing important, but in the process of the examination, the doctors informed me that PKD had developed. At that time, my kidneys were functioning at a 60-percent rate. PKD becomes an issue when kidney function plummets but the speed the disease progresses at varies."
When kidney function drops to below 20 percent, patients can go on a nationwide donor list, provided they meet the criteria for an organ receiver. For McGee, that process began last August, when his kidney function dropped to 19.5 percent. He then began the process of testing through the Cleveland Clinic Medical Board, which had to determine that he was healthy enough to receive a donor kidney.
Approval finally came on April 18 of this year and McGee was placed on a nationwide listing to receive a new kidney. This kidney will come from one of two sources. One is a cadaver kidney that must be used within hours of death. The waiting list is long for these and requires a wait of up to three years. Cadaver kidneys can last up to three years, with 83 percent of them lasting at least a year.
However, the preferred donation method utilizes a living donor. For someone to donate a kidney, six factors must be matched in the recipient's body. The top three involve blood type, genetics and antibodies. Kidneys from living donors have lasted from six months to as long as 25 years.
Even with a kidney donation, McGee's life will be filled with challenges. "I may have to miss three to four months work from my job at Detroit Diesel. I will also have to take dozens of medications daily and these will cost $6,000 to $8,000 a month. Doctors will have to add and subtract to the dosage to find what fits me. I will never stop taking these medications. However, my quality of life should be somewhat normal once I have a new kidney and the medications are adjusted."
So, for McGee, the search for a kidney is on. "Cleveland Clinic told me to look for six to eight donors in order to find a match. I have had someone at work ask me about this and three friends so far," he said.
Donating begins with matching blood types. For McGee, that will be either type A or type O blood. Prospective donors can contact the Cleveland Clinic at 216-445-3150. They should state that they are interested in donating a kidney for Reggie McGee.
Once a donor is identified, a transplant can be done immediately. It just becomes a matter of setting up times and the donation can be effected. McGee also said that the clinic has a program to match potential donors to others who are in need of a kidney. This allows those who want to donate a kidney, but do not match a recipient, to help someone else in need.
With a little help from his friends and the magic of modern medicine, Mayor Reggie McGee can have a very normal future and his two children, Logan, 13, and Keegan, 6, can enjoy the aegis of their father for decades. Not so fortunate was the mayor's father.
"Dad's hope was to see his three sons graduate from high school," he said. "Medicine wasn't ready to help that happen. Now, we can have every hope that it will. We just need to find a matching donor."
DONATE A KIDNEY
This information was obtained from the Cleveland Clinic web site and used by permission.
Why a living donor?
* A living donor transplant has many advantages over a cadaver kidney transplant, the most important being a significantly higher success rate.
* A kidney from a live donor generally functions immediately after transplant.
* There is a reduced risk of rejection, especially if the kidney is donated by a blood relative.
Who would be a good living donor candidate?
* Siblings generally make the best living donors. However, with the advancements in drugs and treatment for rejection prevention, anyone can be considered for organ donation if they have a compatible blood type. The success of kidney transplants using unrelated living donors is nearly as high as living related donors.
* Most healthy individuals between the ages of 18-60 are potential candidates for organ donation.
What are the risks of having only one kidney?
* A common question from an organ donation candidate is: "What if I get kidney disease later on in life?" A person with one kidney is no more likely to get kidney disease than someone with two kidneys.
* Even if the most common forms of kidney disease were to occur, a person with one kidney has no major disadvantage because medical kidney diseases attack both kidneys simultaneously.
* After surgery, the donor's remaining kidney will increase in size and function. The donor's chance for a long, normal and healthy life remains the same with one kidney.
Will the quality of life change for the donor?
* Once the donor has healed from the surgery, the person should not experience a difference in energy level, ability to work, life expectancy, susceptibility to illness, sexual function or feeling of health.
Is the donor operation dangerous?
* Kidney donor surgery is a very safe operation. As with any surgery, there is a risk of bleeding and infection.
* The most advanced surgical technique, laparoscopic nephrectomy, has reduced the hospital stay to 1-2 days, resulted in less pain and scarring and has reduced full recovery time from 8-12 weeks down to 2-4 weeks.
Who will pay the donor's medical bills?
* A donor candidate will take a group of tests called an evaluation to determine if he or she can safely participate in organ donation. The recipient's insurance company will pay for these costs. All costs associated with the donor's operation and recovery also will be billed to the recipient's insurance company.
Once a donor has recovered from organ donation, it is recommended that he have a check-up with his own physician annually. The cost of the checkup will be billed to the donor's insurance. If any other medical conditions are identified during the protocol, the donor will have to pay for the treatment of those conditions.
A donor also may incur costs of travel, lodging, meals and other non-medical expenses. Donating an organ is covered by the Federal Medical Leave Act. However, the donor candidate should determine the impact organ donation will have on their work situation before committing to the operation.
What is the Paired Donor Network?
If you have a living donor who is not a match for you, you might elect to become part of the Ohio Paired Donor Network. This program allows the living donor to give his or her kidney to another recipient, and you would receive a kidney for that recipient's donor.
If you are interested in this program, call the donor office at 216-444-0486 or 1-800-223-2273, Ext. 40486. A brochure explaining the program is available.