Sunday, January 3, 2016

Organ Transplants

Today, at the beginning of the New Year, I (along with many other music fans) are mourning the death of the singer Natalie Cole.  I plan to blog more about her tomorrow for my Music Monday feature.

The cause of death - a variety of ills, including congestive heart failure and a reoccurrence of a liver  condition called Hepatitis C.  The Hep C was linked to drug abuse from earlier in her life.

A tragic end, too soon, to another music talent.   Ms. Cole was only two years older than I am.

I want to blog a little about Hepatitis C, because a friend from years ago died when she couldn't get a liver transplant.  She never revealed why her liver had been destroyed, but hepatitis (there is more than one type) may have been the reason.  She was only in her late 50's.  She was on a transplant list but a liver was not available in time.

Hep C is the silent killer and yet it can be detected with a blood test.  It is not curable at this time, but there are treatments (some treatments better than when Natalie Cole was first diagnosed).  And, if there is any suspicion that you may have contracted it - for example, if you received a blood transfusion prior to 1992 - you owe it to yourself and your family to get tested.

Which brings me back to Natalie Cole. 

As a side effect of her treatment, her kidneys were impaired and she had to start dialysis.  In 2009, she was fortunate enough to receive a kidney transplant.  Many people needing organ transplants, though, never receive them.

It is estimated that 12 people in the United States die each day while waiting for a kidney transplant.

For liver transplants, in 2012, there were over 16,000 on the United States lists.

We tend to think that organ failure is the "fault" of the person involved.  But, in many cases, that is not at all true.  It isn't true for a family member with kidney disease, and only time will tell what the outcome for this person will be.

The death of Natalie Cole has lessons for all of us.  Sadly, though, I doubt those lessons will be learned.  And, to me, the saddest part is that we don't seem to pay attention until a celebrity dies.

I hope that Natalie Cole's death starts a national discussion about certain diseases, and ways that our country can improve availability of hearts, kidneys, livers, and other organs that we have the ability to transplant.

Do you have personal experience, or a family member, with a condition leading to an organ transplant?


  1. I've always been surprised having thought organ donation/transplantation was a rare thing how many people I'm vaguely connected to who have benefited (or have family members who have) from a transplant - I had two good friends as a teen who gained extra time from them and know a few others whose mum/sister/whoever had them

    1. When I was young, transplants were beyond medical technology. So was most heart surgery. My husband's next door neighbor had a son who died at age 14 from a heart condition that would have been easily fixed today. It's sobering, knowing how many of us are alive today where we may not have been 50 years ago - and actually, I may be one of them myself.

  2. I hate the tendency to ascribe blame to sick people. Seriously - like smoking or drug abuse deserves a death sentence? (I do understand and agree that someone shouldn't get a second chance at damaging a donated organ through drug, alcohol, or tobacco abuse, but if they are clean and sober and a transplant could help them, their past is no one's business but their doctor's.) And what does that mentality do to people who have lung cancer, but never smoked one cigarette and didn't hang out with a bunch of smokers? "What did you do to get this?" is probably one of the dumbest things someone can ask, but you hear it all the time. I actually had a coworker tell me, many years ago, that she was "glad" I'd had a miscarriage, because it would give me an opportunity to quit smoking before I got pregnant again. (We used to be friends. We drifted apart after that.)

    We should all be organ donors. It's not like we'll be using our usable parts after we're dead, and apparently there is NO major religion that frowns on organ donation. If you don't want to put it on your driver's license (you know, maybe you saw Coma when you were young and it has made a lasting, disturbing impression on you to this day), at least let your immediate family know your wishes and make sure they accept them and support them.

    1. I agree with your thought on organ donation. And, my childhood best friend died from lung cancer in September - that asterisk ("yes, but I did not smoke") followed her everywhere. I wrote a blog post a couple of years ago about this very thing.

  3. I have a friend who had a kidney transplant. She always calls the anniversary of the date of her kidney transplant her "second birthday." She gained a new lease on life with the new kidney. It was a great blessing to her. It was a great blessing to me, as well. I am very fond of Dawn. If she had not gotten the new kidney, which happened before I met her, I may have never known her.
    Life can be fragile. When people agree to be organ donors, they are giving the gift of life to others. It is one of the greatest gifts that someone can give to another.

  4. I did not know Natalie Cole suffered from Hep C and that it was the cause of her death. It is true that celebrities in death often bring attention to the importance of not only organ donation, but a better understanding of kidney and other disease whether inherited or otherwise. I think if I remember correctly, Erma Bombeck died from an inherited kidney disease. She has always been a favorite writer of mine. Thanks for this post...without having read it I might not have been informed. Your other commenters offered excellent perspectives as well.

  5. I want to piggy back on what Holly wrote...

    I am currently undergoing treatment for metastatic breast cancer. I stopped drinking coffee and cut way, way, way back on sweets. Made quite a few dietary modifications.

    About a year ago I had a 6.5 week affair with a radiation machine I named George Clooney. George was cheating on me with many other women, and men.

    Something that really bothered me: many of my fellow patients, people who were undergoing radiation therapy for cancer, reeked of cigarette smoke. Some so much so that I need to leave the waiting area to escape the odor.

    I hate to be one to pass judgement on another. But is that cigarette really more important than your life?

    Back to the transplant question. A good friend has a brother who received an organ from a young woman whose life was cut short. He is alive and thriving today.

  6. Natalie Cole had such a beautiful voice. My husband had the pleasure of playing with her a few years back when she sang with the Count Basie Orchestra. It's so surprising that there isn't a cure for Hepatitis C. I didn't realize how many people suffered from the disease. I've never known anyone who has needed an organ transplant but I am an organ donor. I look forward to your future post on Natalie Cole.

  7. Such a sad story. And it turns out that some people who do want to donate their organs can't.

  8. A lot of things in our medical systems isn't fair. But compare to 100 years ago people are living long since advancement in medical treatment.

    Coffee is on

  9. I wasn't aware of Natalie's health problems, so her death came as a shock to me.

    I wish everyone would become organ donors! A good friend of mine almost died three times, waiting for a new liver, but luckily, he received one just in time. It bought him another ten years of quality life.

  10. I've been so busy, I some how missed that Natalie Cole had died. So many big names passing on recently, it seems!

    No organ transplant recipients among my family or friends, that I'm aware of.

    I did recently read a very chilling, horrific account from a medical professional stating that organs for donation are removed from DYING, but not DEAD people. With no anesthesia. Makes me reconsider the idea of organ donation.


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