The Need For Living Organ Donors

Special Reports

Joe Benamati needs a kidney. The 68-year-old was disgnosed with diabetes in his early thirties and has managed it ever since, but a heart attack last year really changed things. 

“What that did was throw everything off. It compromised my kidneys and that meant I needed to go on dialysis,” Benamati said.    

While just beginning dialysis last year, Joe has actually been on the transplant list for two years…after learning that none of his four daughters could even be considered as a donor.    

Benamati said, “They have their own issues, some medical issues, so they’re not elegible to gift a kidney. You have to be in pretty good shape. You can’t have any major illnesses or disease.”

Everyone is familiar with becoming an organ donor and getting the designation on your drivers license, which of course means once you die you’ve agreed to the donation of any viable organs.

But what Benamati’s family and many others like them want people to remember is the need for living donors. We all have two kidneys, but you only need one.

Benamati’s wife Teresa says, “Being informed is the best thing to do. The doctors will not choose a candidate unless they are completely without risk. So it’s difficult. We’re looking to try and get as many interested people, to apply, to help Joe as we can.”

Just up the road in saratoga springs 49-year-old Shannon Lutz is in need of a liver transplant. Shannon is one of the lucky ones. Her daughter Brandy Englehart was a match.

“My mom was diagnosed, I think 8 years ago, with an autoimmune disease and we knew somewhere down the road she was going to need a transplant. Last October she had gotten a pretty bad virus, a weird case, and it kind of attacked everything. I, right away, was going to see if I could be a living donor. I like to think I’m a pretty healthy person and I’m young,” Englehart said.

Her mother says, “I did have hesitation, but now that she’s been approved to be my live donor she’s my little hero. It’s been a very emotional rollercoaster for us.”

Brandy and Shannon are scheduled for their surgeries on March 13th at New York Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan.

Joe Benamati is registered through the University of Vermont Medical Center up in Burlington. For anyone interested, the process to find out if you’re a match is as easy as going to your local physician.

“If they’re interested in doing this they don’t have to wait until they pass away. UVM will supply them with a kit. They’ll ship it to them, they can bring it to their doctor and they can have their bloodwork done. And everything is covered under my Medicare,” Benamati said.

The Benamatis turned to social media back in December. That simple Facebook post generated a dozen possibilities.

“The reaction to it and the support was humbling. Through that, we must have about 12 people who applied to UVM to be donors. It’s been amazing. We’re hoping we can get a match. We haven’t heard yet, so we’re still looking. Anyone who’s interested, we won’t turn them away,” Teresa said. 

For more information:

UVM Medical Center 

National Kidney Foundation

United Network for Organ Sharing

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