Woman faces tough odds in race to find kidney
Requirements for kidney donation:
-- In good health -- mentally and physically
-- Over the age of 18 and under 66
-- Any blood type
-- Any location in U.S.
-- Not diabetic; no high blood pressure
-- No alcohol or drug abuse problems
-- Willing to consider donation
NEW RICHMOND -- Pam Megadance is running out of time. Her kidneys are failing and she needs a donor -- fast.
It all started in 1997 when Megadance was in a serious car accident that killed a friend and left her with soft tissue damage.
Eventually she developed fibromyalgia and doctors prescribed her Advil for the pain. She said the pain was so severe that she became depressed and couldn't work. After getting into an argument with her doctor, who said it was all in her head, she stopped seeing him and started taking over-the-counter Advil.
"And that's what destroyed my kidneys," she said.
It wasn't until about eight months ago that Megadance, 67, started seeing Dr. Neal Melby at New Richmond Clinic and found out something was wrong.
"Neal Melby was the first one to ever comment that something didn't look right with my blood work," she said.
Last summer, after developing kidney stones, Megadance was referred to Dr. Vishal Sagar, where she learned that her kidneys were failing.
Now, Megadance said, every time she goes to see Sagar, her kidneys are in worse shape.
Instead of dwelling on the feeling of helplessness, Megadance said she decided to be proactive and spread the word about her need.
"It's very scary and I can't think about it too much," she said. "I just need to focus on the positive and the things I have control of."
Megadance said that while she'd accept any kidney donation to come her way, she's hoping to find a live donor.
"Statistics show that those with kidneys from live donors live longer," she said. "I certainly wouldn't turn down a deceased donor, but I hope to find a live one."
Megadance is facing tough odds, she said.
According to her statistics, more than half of kidney transplant candidates over the age of 60 will die before receiving a kidney.
Megadance is an only child with no family, and her friends don't qualify for donation, she said.
"They say family is the best place to look for a kidney, but if you don't have any... what do you do?" she said.
Even if Megadance were to find a live donor with the same blood type, donors must pass rigorous testing before being approved for donation.
"Forty to 60 percent of people get turned down," she said. "They want to minimize the risk to the donor, and that's why they have such a high success rate."
The waiting list for a deceased donor is extensive, she said. In some areas, such as the Southwest, it can be up to eight years before someone gets a kidney. In the Twin Cities, the waiting list is about four years, she said.
Megadance said she's not sure how much time she has, but her lab results continue to decline with each doctor appointment.
"It's like a race," she said.
Megadance said it won't cost a potential donor anything to be tested or to donate.
"Even if you're not a match, you'll get a pretty good physical out of it," she said with a laugh. "My insurance will pay for it all."
Anyone interested in being tested as a potential donor should call Hennepin County Medical Center's Transplant Program at 612-873-7705.
"It's totally confidential and they can donate anonymously if they want," she said.
For more information about Megadance, visit www.kidneyforpam.com.