Time is running out on the crisis of kidney donation shortages in the United States
In December 2015, Agnihotri was diagnosed with end-stage renal failure. He went from diagnosis to transplant in three months in a series of what he calls miracles. Agnihotri understands that many others who were also on a waiting list weren’t so lucky.
Today, Agnihotri tackles the crisis of the shortage of living kidney donors. As someone who has built his career solving global business problems, he is an outsider and looks to other outsiders to help find a solution.
“While the work many have done to increase deceased donor registration is nothing short of Herculean, we have been fighting the shortage of kidney donations with one hand tied behind our backs,” Agnihotri said. “While this remains important, why are we focusing the majority of attention, education and funding on increasing the deceased donor registry only? It is time we focused on living kidney donation. “
Agnihotri leads Kidneys for Communities, which provides the tools to educate, raise awareness and create dialogue among community members to connect potential living kidney donors with those in need within their community.
For example, if a person wishes to donate a kidney to help a colleague in their specific law enforcement association, they can be enrolled in a pool and their kidney donation can begin a chain of paired exchange transplants. which ends with a compatible transplant for a member within this association. Although the donation is still anonymous, the donor indicates where his kidney goes, even if he does not know the recipient personally.
The shortage of kidney donors may not seem like an urgent crisis. After all, there are daily stories of community compassion, like that of the teacher who donated a kidney to another educator before meeting in person. While this power of connection and shared interest is a familiar story, kidney donation is often left to chance or individual outreach efforts. Although kidney transplants from living donors occur every day, only 3% of these transplants are from altruistic donors, that is, people who donate a kidney without knowing the recipient. Strangers helping strangers, while necessary, is not that common.
According to the US Organ Supply and Transplantation Network, there were only 5,971 living donor kidney transplants performed in 2021. Another 18,699 transplants were from deceased kidney donors. In total, this represents 24,670 kidney transplants in 2021.
“Do the math,” says Agnihotri. “How do these numbers from OPTN impact the over 100,000 people who are in immediate need of a kidney transplant? We need everyone on deck to tackle the shortage of kidneys. Although the While funding and awareness of deceased kidney donation is important, it should be only part of the equation.”
Agnihotri believes we need a collective effort to solve the kidney shortage crisis. Kidneys for Communities joins many efforts already underway to increase living kidney donation.
The economy can save lives
Economist Alvin Roth won a Nobel Prize in 2012 in part for the work he and his colleagues did to improve the odds of finding living kidney donors, which led to an algorithm that matches combinations of undirected direct donors and/or or incompatible by performing paired exchanges. This algorithm creates an extended chain of kidney transplants that connects a series of potential donors and recipients.
Support on both sides of the aisle
In 2021, U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle took action by supporting the Organ Donor Clarification Act, which aims to reduce financial barriers that affect potential living donors, such as compensation for lost wages and medical expenses. This is a smart start that builds on previous living kidney donation efforts.
Addressing Health Disparities in Organ Donation in Minority Communities
African Americans are almost four times more likely than white Americans to develop kidney failure. While African Americans make up about 13% of the population, they make up 35% of people with kidney disease in United States, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. OneLegacy’s “Connecting the Dots” is a series of virtual town hall events that aim to bridge the gap between the demand for organ transplants and the limited number of organ donations in minority communities.
The power of our communities
Drawing on the compassion of communities, Agnihotri points to the fact that 96% of all living donors knew or had an indirect relationship with the recipient.
“When we look at who has historically chosen to be a living kidney donor, we know that most living donors are not completely random,” says Agnihotri.
Kidneys for Communities is asking leaders of membership-based associations to sign up for its “Put Your Kidney Where Your Heart Is” toolkit, which empowers members through a turnkey education program on kidneys.
“As new societal, technological and medical developments continue to evolve, it is essential that we examine new concepts on all fronts,” says Roth. “Taking one of the most powerful bonds – the community – and bringing together people who want to help with those who need help is the kind of innovative approach that could end the shortage of living kidney donors.”
About Kidneys for Communities
Kidneys for Communities is a nonprofit that partners with organizations to impact the lives of their members by providing living kidney donation resources to their members, increasing the odds that a donor will lead a donated kidney to another member in need.
The community-directed giving model allows potential donors who belong to membership-based associations to direct their vital gifts based on a community they wish to support.
To address the shortage of living kidney donors through proactive community outreach programs, Kidneys for Communities has developed the first-ever national community donation program. The program unlocks the connections created through membership-based communities with the goal of increasing the number of living kidney donors in the United States.
The leadership team includes innovative leaders, kidney donors, social workers and medical experts in the fields of nephrology and kidney transplantation – all of whom have seen this disease up close and are committed to making an impact. . Learn more about giving or connect directly with the Living Donor Connections team at www.kidneysforcommunities.org.
SOURCE Kidneys for Communities