WaitList Zero occasionally publishes guest blog posts written by members of our community in the hopes of sharing viewpoints from various perspectives. 


By: Risa Simon

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Risa Simon, Founder and CEO TransplantFirst Academy

As a recipient whose life was profoundly changed by a living kidney donor, I’m deeply baffled by the absence of recognition for living kidney donors. I’ve spent countless hours trying to reconcile the magnitude of what I and many others have received. And though I know this has never been about a fair exchange—even if that were possible, my heart (and new kidney) are constantly seeking moral balance.

Last year, my creative mind conjured up a unique and simple way to deliver a small, but recognizable, improvement.  The notion was to shed new light on our life-saving heroes who save lives by choice, not by death or medical necessity. The idea was to respectfully recognize their act as one of the highest levels of service humanity has to offer.

As the founder of the TransplantFirst Academy, I set out to seek input from other organizations in this space and received an overwhelmingly positive response. This prompted our organization to become the foundational force behind what is now known as: The Living Kidney Donor Tribute 4 Awareness Campaign.

Our first target was to establish recognition for living kidney donors in the city of Phoenix. We achieved this status after the Mayor of our city signed a proclamation formally honoring living kidney donors for their brave life-saving acts. Our next target was to expand message visibility. We did this by launching a community outreach billboard campaign.

Our goal became two-fold.

Our main objective was to showcase the proud faces of living kidney donors and thank them for their life-saving service. Yet we didn’t stop there. We had a bigger plan, which was to inspire communities to join our movement to increase awareness in living kidney donation and inspire admirers and potential followers. Soon our standalone “Thank you for your service” initiative blossomed into a campaign that increased awareness and desire for others to personally contemplate this brave act for themselves.

Since living kidney donors don’t wear a Medal of Honor or a superhero’s cape, it’s hard to admire or emulate what they’ve done. Their decoration of a few scars is their only discreet distinction of lifetime achievement. Surely, we can give these brave champions more recognition for the role they played in saving lives.

Our nation’s organ shortage supports this campaign as a great call to action. Currently, nearly 10,000 people die prematurely or become medically disqualified for a kidney transplant every year. To add insult to injury, the number of people waiting on the list grows by 30% each year, as more sick patients face the same reality of need. The grim fact is that every year only 16 percent of the 100,000-plus waiting will receive their much needed replacement kidney.

Those who are fortunate enough to receive the gift from a deceased donor typically wait 5 years. Though there are some patients who are lucky enough to receive a kidney in a shorter amount of time, there are many more who wait much longer. Age also matters now. Many patients over the age of 50, who were approaching the top of the list after years of waiting, have lost their place in line due to new deceased-organ allocation.

This is just one of the many reasons living kidney donor transplants hold unparalleled value.  Yet, until we can increase awareness and the numbers of living kidney donors (which has dropped significantly, including a 33% drop in 2015), we won’t be able to positively impact the futures of those in need.

This Campaign begins to address our moral obligation to do more. It starts by saluting those who courageously saved lives – and it keeps on giving by inspiring potential donors who might otherwise be unaware of this opportunity. Of course, living kidney donation is not for everyone. It takes a very special person to lean in this direction and a person in good health to medically qualify. To date, over 133,000 people have
been able to save an equal number of lives. These remarkable individuals give new meaning to the expression “Giving of self.” Let’s recognize these heroes and inspire a “heart-string” of potential followers.

If you are moved to join this campaign by expanding this project in your own city, we applaud your interest and welcome you aboard. If you are a recipient who has received the gift of life from a living
kidney donor, or a person who knows someone who has; or you are someone who believes in this initiative, take the first step now. You can do that by requesting a Living Kidney Donor Tribute 4 Awareness proclamation from your Mayor or Governor’s office. Often times a simple online search can lead you to that process.

You can also start to form a committee to help you explore billboard opportunities. Know that you don’t have to go it alone. Campaign art and special rates may be available. Check with the TransplantFirst Academy to learn more. Together we can achieve more, so let’s not let another day go by without taking action. It time to recognize those who courageously save lives and inspire others to become more caring and compassionate people.

WLZ infographic resized2Not Sure Where to Begin?

The infographic provides a 9 step snapshot to help steer your campaign. You can also visit this link for more information: www.TransplantFirst.org/campaigns-projects. For those who believe in this movement and would like to make a financial contribution to keep this campaign alive—please visit this link: www.TransplantFirst.org/contribute.

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