The sign hung over Fenway Park, just under the beloved Red Sox icon. It read, “Save Doug Kahn’s Life! BWH.donorscreen.org Kidney donor urgently needed!” A desperate move on behalf of a desperate young man.
Things have never been easy for the 50-year-old Brockton accountant and father of two children, ages nine and seven. As a student, Doug Kahn struggled with depression and was treated with, among other things, lithium. It was well before medicine established a link between long-term use of that drug and kidney disease. In 2008, Doug completed his MBA in finance and simultaneously was diagnosed with kidney failure.
Now he is among the 100,000 patients in the United States who, each year, sit and wait for a kidney from a deceased person. Fewer than 20,000 will get such a transplant. Doug has been on the waiting list for two years. If averages hold, he’ll have three or four additional years, dependent on dialysis four hours daily, three days a week. The alternative solution is to find a living donor. Hence, the sign at Fenway Park.
Susan Kahn, Doug’s mom, is a friend from high school who got her master’s degree in teaching and has taught thousands of dyslexic children and adults, including son Doug, to read. Dissatisfied with available teaching materials, she has published 15 books, produced 32 videos, and written over 500 blogs to help teach people from six years of age to 60 to read. Doug’s disease is a very different kind of challenge, an existential one, and Susan is determined to get the word out.
She started an awareness campaign to find Doug a donor by creating a poster/car magnet to attract potential donors. Doug is listed on the National Kidney Registry: https://www.nkr.org/eeu334 . Anyone interested in becoming a donor, either directly or through an organ exchange, can begin an evaluation by going to the website: BWH.donorscreen.org.
Potential donors are evaluated by separate teams of health care professionals. Those experts determine prospective donors’ suitability, educate them about the risks and benefits, and support them in the decision-making process.
Kidney transplants have been done successfully since 1954, but organ availability has never kept up with need. An estimated 400,000 lives have been saved by this medical advance, first achieved by Dr. Joseph E. Murray at Boston.’s Peter Bent Brigham Hospital. (He later won the Nobel Prize in Medicine.) Despite the vast numbers, every single case has to be met with a sense of urgency, one at a time. Lives hang in the balance. Doug Kahn of Brockton, MA is one of those desperate lives.