Friday, July 26, 2013

Walking in the Motor City, Hoping for a Lift – Come Join Me Saturday!

The facts are these: African Americans, who seem to fall victim to every illness from diabetes to high blood pressure at a far greater rate than the rest of the population, make up the majority of people on waiting lists for organ transplants.

However, although black folks need more organs, we donate fewer after we die. A lot fewer. And nearly every medical study you'll see says an organ from a donor of the same racial or ethnic group has a much better chance of being transplanted successfully and overcoming rejection.

C'mon, brothers and sisters, step up! Do you really want some middle-aged white woman's kidney rumbling around inside you?

(Whaddaya think? "White woman" reference too much? Over the top?)

I'm in Detroit this weekend, making an 800-mile round trip from my current home to my favorite city because this is an issue I care about passionately. I was so blessed: I received my donor kidney from a young African American girl, and some doctors say I'm doing better today than I ever did with my own kidneys. She literally saved my life.

You could save some lives, too.

This Saturday, July 27, I'll be speaking – and walking – at the 16th annual LIFE Walk on Belle Isle, sponsored by the Detroit chapter of  MOTTEP (the Minority Organ Tissue Transplant Education Program). The event features a 5K and 10K run in addition to a 5K walk (my mind and heart say "run," but my knees are holding them both hostage in favor of "walk.") The real purpose, however, is to heighten awareness about the critical need for more minorities to consider organ donation.

I hear the goal of Saturday's get-together is to sign up 250 new organ donors. What? I think we can do at least twice  that, even though many of those who will attend the LIFE Walk already may have committed to donation. I say 500 new donors! Hey, why not think big?

I'll be joined by some local TV celebs from Channel 7 (WXYZ), meteorologist Keenan Smith and news anchor Glenda Lewis. And I understand that Glenda's mom, Detroit television legend Diana Lewis, may show up as well. (Can't wait to give her a big hug!) And my old friend (whom I haven't seen in years – some friend I am), former U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Collins, will serve as the official Run Marshal.

If you're anywhere near Metro Detroit, come and join me Saturday if you can. Registration opens at 7:30 a.m., the run begins at 8:30 and the walk commences at 9. My goal: To touch your heart and conscience, bring a tear to your eye and make you knock other people over in your rush to sign up as an organ donor.

I promise you three things: It won't hurt when they harvest your organs for donation. You could help eight people or more live fuller, happier lives as your legacy.

And no matter where you end up going, you won't need your body after you leave.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

'Hot in Cleveland' Is Hot for Donors

Here's a great reason to watch the TV Land sitcom Hot in Cleveland this week, besides the irrepressible Betty White and the extraordinarily fine Valerie Bertinelli, who I had a major crush on when I was a kid and she was on One Day at a Time especially because I knew she grew up in suburban Detroit not far from where I lived and....

Malick, Leeves, Bertinelli and White, 'Hot in Cleveland'
Oops. Went off the grid there for a moment. Sorry.

In a first-of-its kind partnership, TV Land and Hot in Cleveland are teaming with the nonprofit organ donation website to raise awareness of the crucial need for organ donors with this week's episode Wednesday (7.17) at 10 p.m. EST. In the storyline, legendary soap opera star Victoria Chase (Wendie Malick, who I had a major crush on...oh, never mind) makes the life-altering decision to donate one of her kidneys to a desperately ill young girl.

You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll be moved, I suspect. claims to be the most successful nonprofit agency targeted to "finding living altruistic organ donors for patients needing transplants," receiving more than 1.5 million hits to its website every month.

"We are proud to partner with TV Land," says MatchingDonor founder and CEO Paul Dooley. "Their unselfish efforts in promoting organ donor awareness will directly result in saving lives."

As someone whose life was saved by a successful kidney transplant Nov. 18, 2011, you can bet I'm eager to see this episode. My donated kidney wants to watch, too.

I've been telling her about Valerie and Wendie.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

EVERYTHING You Wanted to Know About Transplants – But Didn't Know You Wanted to Ask

Most people know that the wonderful comedian George Lopez received a kidney transplant in 2005, and got the donor organ from his wife, Ann. But did you know he wanted absolutely no part of becoming what he calls "the poster boy for kidney disease?"

George Lopez (Gavin Bond/TBS)
"I just wanted to get in, get out and get on with my life," Lopez admits. "But...I decided that I could not turn my back on the message of organ donation, of prevention, and of taking an interest in your health and the health of your family."

What changed his mind? I found out – and you can, too – in the weekend edition of USA Today last week, which featured a Media Planet section entirely devoted to issues surrounding organ transplantation in America.

Beyond what's billed as Lopez's first-ever interview about his transplant, there are stories on:

• How medical and technological advancements are helping to lessen the time spent on the waiting list for a replacement organ;

• A discussion on the future of transplantation with three celebrated medical experts;

• An article on the financial burdens and realities following an organ transplant;

• A first-person feature on snowboarder Chris Klug, who continued to excel at his sport despite a liver transplant, and much more.

It's a truly impressive – and unexpected – collection of stories regarding one of the topics nearest to my heart. (Or more accurately, my kidney.)

Among the things I think I already knew but are always worth repeating are:

• More than 118,000 Americans are waiting for an organ transplant right now;

• Many of them will wait five years or more for the opportunity to receive a replacement organ;

• Thousands of them will die every year as the gap between the need for organs and the number of organs available continues to widen.

And something I didn't know: 40 percent of all transplanted lungs are rejected.


This section from Media Planet, an independent content provider, is really worth diving into if you want to know more about the present and future of transplantation. I'm so glad "Sidney Kidney" turned me on to it. (If you don't know, I can't help you.)

You can read the section HERE.