BAY CITY, MI — Euphoria. That’s the word Brian Martindale used to describe the feeling he felt after donating a kidney to a 10-year-old child he heard about in the Bay City Times ten years ago.
He and Jessica Schwerin lived four blocks away but had never met. His gift saved his life.
“I would absolutely do it again. If I had 10 kidneys, I would donate nine,” Martindale said. “It’s one of the most rewarding things you can do in life.”
Now, Martindale is a peer mentor for kidney donors who speaks on behalf of the University of Michigan Transplant Center and the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan. He is working to connect other people in need of kidneys – people like Tracey Libbrecht, a 35-year-old mother – with living donors.
Libbrecht, who lives in Monitor Township in Bay County, was diagnosed with lupus, which affected her kidney function, in 2010. She underwent a kidney transplant in 2015, but her body began to reject it in a few years, and now she needs another one. . His kidney function deteriorated after contracting COVID-19 in January.
“Right now I’m running at about 5% (kidney function),” she said, noting that she was experiencing extreme fatigue, memory issues, loss of appetite and body aches, among other symptoms, as a result of his kidney failure. . “You don’t realize how sick you’ve become because that’s kind of your norm.”
About a month ago she started home dialysis, which means she is hooked up to a machine for 10.5 hours a day. Between the time spent receiving treatments and cleaning and setting up the system, she has to devote 12 hours a day, every day, to dialysis. The process is frustrating and exhausting.
“You try to find the positives there, but it’s hard to find them,” Libbrecht said as she sat at her kitchen table with Martindale on a recent weekday morning. “It’s hard to be hooked up to a machine knowing that’s how you stay alive.”
She will need to stay on dialysis until she can get a new kidney, a process that can take years.
“I am blood type B positive and the waiting list in Michigan for my blood type is over six years,” she said. “I have one of the hardest blood types to match.”
For kidney donation to work, the blood and tissue types of the donor and recipient must match, among other considerations. But even if someone isn’t a match for Libbrecht, they could still help her through the matching kidney donation program.
“Somebody can donate (a kidney) in their name, and it basically gives them credit,” Martindale explained. “So they donate and they push her to the top of the list.”
Libbrecht’s story is spreading throughout the community and she has received dozens of calls from potential donors, people wanting to know more, and people wishing good luck.
Martindale said it’s important for potential donors to know that financial assistance is available for people who choose to be living donors.
“For the person making a donation, there is absolutely no disbursement. His insurance covers all medical treatment,” Martindale said. “They wouldn’t absorb any costs, and there’s help to deal with lost wages, whatever happens during the time they’re away for the transplant.”
Libbrecht hopes sharing her story will help her find a donor and encourage living kidney donation to help others as well.
“I’m just very, very grateful to everyone who came forward,” she said. “I have faith in humanity again.”
future living kidney donors, click here to complete a pre-selection questionnairecall 1-800-333-9013 or email [email protected].
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