Stuart Carey (aka Stuart Eiseman) is a Carpinteria resident and well-known painter and jazz singer who has been on dialysis since 2016. That’s when a sepsis infection left him with permanent kidney damage. Although dialysis keeps him alive, it will ultimately shorten his life and, in the meantime, tether him to a machine for up to 24 hours each month.
Last month, Carey attended a workshop hosted by Santa Barbara nephrologist Dr. Michael Fisher where he learned that the key to getting a lifesaving transplant from a living donor is telling his story to as many people as possible.
Because March is National Kidney Month, devoted to raising awareness about a disease that already kills more Americans each year than either breast or prostate cancer, Carey agreed to tell his story to Coastal View News.
“By far the hardest thing about this illness is the toll it is taking on my partner,” Carey said on a break from his work at the Santa Barbara County Health Department, where he was a medical social services practitioner for many years and is now an administrative office professional. “Steven was the first in line to donate, but his own pre-existing health conditions made him ineligible. Since then, four other friends have stepped forward. Three of them were also rejected and one is still awaiting the results of her screenings.”
Some 31 million Americans have chronic kidney disease. Half-a-million of them are on dialysis and awaiting a transplant from a deceased donor, which can take five to 10 years, depending on where you live. The only way to accelerate the process is to find a living donor.
There are many reasons why a living kidney donation is preferable to one from a deceased donor. It begins working immediately, lasts twice as long and reduces the list of people awaiting one from a cadaver. Moreover, other than the risks that accompany any surgery, kidney donation is safe. Your remaining kidney will take over the work of the donated one; your life expectancy will remain the same; you can still have a baby; the surgery is likely covered by the donor’s insurance; and should you later need a kidney, you will move to the top of the transplant list. Nevertheless, most people remain unaware of the prevalence and devastation of kidney disease, and don’t even consider donating an organ to save a life.
“It’s a hard thing to talk about,” Carey admitted, “and I don’t want to put anyone on the spot about donating. But a kidney transplant will make a huge difference in my life. Not only will it free me from dialysis, it will dramatically reduce the stress on my partner and—most of all—save my life.”
To find out more about living kidney donation, visit the Living Kidney Donor Network at lkdn.org or contact living donor coordinators at Cedars-Sinai Hospital, Jessica (310) 423-8463 and Miguel (310) 423-4718.