Transplant patients can wait lifetime for donor |

Transplant patients can wait lifetime for donor

Ashley Noel Hennefer
Nevada Appeal News Service

Although the number of those awaiting transplants is rising, the number of donors is not.

More than 90,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant. Every 14 minutes another name is added to the National Waiting List – 16 transplant candidates die every day waiting for an organ. One person can help more than 100 people by becoming an organ donor.

Theresa Tierney from Gardnerville knows just how long that wait can be.

Tierney’s twin brother Steve Clapham has instage liver disease as well as Hepatitis C and has been waiting for a liver transplant for about 18 months.

“Steve was told one time that his liver is functioning at 20 percent,” Tierney said.

Clapham lives in San Diego and has Flolan, a drug used to treat primary pulmonary hypertension, injected into him all hours of the day. Pulmonary hypertension is what is holding him back from being placed on the wait list. However, once he receives a transplant, he will no longer need to use Flolan.

“At one time we were considering a live donation because we’re twins,” Tierney said. “But I have children and a family, and I am in excellent health and he didn’t want anything to jeopardize that.”

The medical field is constantly increasing its knowledge of science and the human body, and organ transplants are becoming more common. Last year, more than 25,000 lives were saved through organ transplants.

A person is placed on the National Waiting List if they have a condition that will lead to organ failure and are recommended by their doctor to receive an organ transplant. They are then sent to a transplant hospital, which has to accept someone in order to be placed on the list. A person can be eligible for multiple lists depending on needs such as age, medical urgency and organ needed.

Sissy Gansberg has seen the other side of the story.

Gansberg, 41, donated her kidney to her brother, Allan Heim, 42, from Novato, Calif., almost two years ago.

“He called me up one day and pretty much told me he was having kidney failure,” said Gansberg, a nurse at Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center.

Heim was diagnosed with auto immune disease, which is when your body rejects an organ in your body, such as the liver. Sissy said the disease may have been a result of strep throat.

Gansberg and her brother weren’t sure how long it would take to find out if he needed a transplant or dialysis. However, Gansberg was tested and found to be a match.

Gansberg’s husband had a hard time with it at first.

“I told him I really wanted to do it,” she said. “We had always talked about if I died that I wanted to donate my organs.”

After a series of tests, they discovered that their other sister was also compatible, but because Gansberg is taller her kidney would be larger, and she was chosen. A transplant was officially decided on, and right before Christmas 2004, Gansberg donated her smaller kidney to her brother.

The operation was successful. However, it didn’t stop there. She was told it would take around 4-6 weeks to recover, but it ended up taking more than that.

“My muscles hurt, I was achy. It wasn’t much fun,” she said of her experience. “The recipient recovers much faster than the donor.”

Two years have passed, and both Gansberg and her brother are healthy. There have been no signs of the liver being rejected in her brother’s body.

“There are so many people who need organs,” Gansberg said. “And a lot of people are scared. It’s scary having surgery. But I would do it again.”

Becoming an organ donor is simple. When you register or renew your driver’s license, you have the option of being an organ donor. When you die, your organs would be donated after death has been legally declared. If you agree, a little red heart next to the words “Organ donor” is printed on your license. Also, another way is by telling your doctor.

On the Net

For information on becoming an organ donor, go to: