Every 10 minutes someone is added to the national transplant waiting list. And in South Carolina more than 90% of those people need a kidney.
Living donors are scarce, especially during the pandemic, so 7News looked into what’s involved, through the eyes of a Greenville mother who has decided to save a life.
“If you have the opportunity to give somebody life, what do you say?” said Brittney Clow, who is willing to give a kidney to a complete stranger.
“It kind of seemed like a no brainer. Like, I have an extra kidney, they both work really well,” she said.
Clow, a mother of two young children who owns a therapy center in Greenville, has already gone through rigorous testing at MUSC’s transplant center in Charleston including blood work, kidney imaging and physical and mental exams.
Of course, her decision is not out of the blue. Her inspiration is her good friend Marnie Safran from Greer.
Safran is also a mother of two young children. She is among 100,000 people in the U.S. on the kidney transplant list.
Well before Safran reached stage 4 kidney failure, she endured more than most. The special education teacher’s love of kids was so strong, she suffered through 4 miscarriages and a still birth just to have her 5-year-old Oliver and 2-year-old Owen.
“My last pregnancy with Owen, really, I guess, pushed my kidneys over the edge. But I would do it again,” she said.
Safran’s Blood type, A+, doesn’t match Clow’s, so Clow had an idea; start a chain where Clow’s donation to someone else on the transplant list inspires others so Marnie and can find a match.
“To be able to give someone that chance of seeing their kids grow up or giving those kids their mom, it’s just, I dont’ know. I think it’s a really special position I get to be in, too,” said Clow.
Donate Life SC says even though more than 1,100 people need a kidney right now in South Carolina, only about 40 living donors in the Palmetto state give that life saving gift each year.
Dr. Michael Casey with MUSC, where kidney transplants have been performed since the 1950s, says he understands the fear. But from a medical standpoint, he says the screening process for living donors is so thorough, statistics show most donors live longer than the average citizen.
“We really put them through what I like to term, the most extensive history and physical that you’ll ever have. For donors their risk of being able to go the rest of their life without needing any sort of dialysis or anything is better than 99%. And their life expectancy is going to be the same as if they had a twin brother or sister who didn’t donate,” said Dr. Casey.
And living donors should know, if they have any life threatening complications with their remaining kidney, they’ll be moved to the top of the kidney donor waiting list.
Last year, alone, MUSC did 300 kidney transplants, and just last month Prisma Health announced it is opening it’s own transplant center in Greenville.
The hospital stay for donors is just 48 to 72 hours and four to six weeks of recovery.
Safran says even though Clow is not a good match, she is hopeful for the future.
“I just want to be here for my kids. They’re so little,” she said.
And she is humbled by the extreme kindness of a friend she has only known for 5 years.
“The fact that she’s willing to do this for me is just amazing,” said Safran.
If Clow’s donation succeeds in inspiring others to give, it’s an act that could save countless lives, since some chains have gone on to help dozens of transplant recipients.
You can learn more about living organ donations here, and if you are interested in seeing if you are a match for Safran you can fill out this Living Donor Referral form and put Marnie Safran’s name on it or call 843-792-5097.
The donor screening, procedure, and after care is covered by the recipient’s insurance, so Safran’s loved one’s have set up this Go Fund Me page to help cover out-of-pocket expenses.