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My Husband Is Fighting for His Life. This Is How You Can Help.

Editor’s note: Dr. Kim shared this story about her husband’s failing kidney and search for a donor on LinkedIn. It is reprinted here with her permission.

headshot of Dr. Grace Kim who describes the struggles of her husband's kidney failure and need to find a donor
Dr. Kim

By Grace Kim, OD

Chair/ Clinical Advisory Panel at Optometry at National Vision

Asking for help is a difficult thing to do. But I am at the point that the desperate desire to save my husband trumps any pride. So I am here, sharing our story in the hopes of finding the altruistic hero who would save my husband. Save our family.

We need a living organ donor – someone who chooses to donate a kidney now, while they are alive, because kidney donors can live normal lives with only one kidney, but my husband will not live without one.

My husband, Dino, is celebrating his sixth year of new life after being saved by open-heart surgery in 2018. The surgery was successful, but the recovery has been long and gruesome. Every time he coughed, the wires holding his rib cage together would reverberate and tremble. He was in pain.

Despite the pain, we were grateful for this second chance at life.

But this blessing was followed by another tragedy. During a routine wellness checkup, Dino learned that he is now in need of a kidney transplant. He was already at Stage 4 kidney disease.

The next stage is kidney failure and ultimately death.

When Dino told me this news, I felt like my heart hauled to a stop.

TIME IS NOT ON OUR SIDE

Dino Broccoli and Dr. Kim were married 16 years ago.

Since then, Dino’s kidney failure has been gradually but continually falling, from below 20% when we learned the news to 17% now. When it gets to 15%, he will begin to have symptoms of kidney failure and will be in the range where dialysis would be necessary to live.

Dialysis does not cure failing kidney. It keeps the kidney function at around 13%, but it can also lead to complications, including heart attack, stroke, blood clots, infection and death. In Dino’s case, due to his previous open-heart surgery with an artificial valve, he is on a blood thinner for life. Thus, dialysis would be a high-risk option, if not fatal.

100,000 PEOPLE WAITING FOR A KIDNEY TRANSPLANT

Waiting for a deceased donor on the waitlist will take years. Although Dino got on the kidney transplant list as quickly as he possibly could, it isn’t happening fast enough. There are more than 100,000 people (about the seating capacity of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum) in line ahead of us. They all need kidneys too.

We need a living donor. A living donor makes it possible for Dino to receive the surgery right away, before dialysis becomes the necessary next – and likely fatal – step.

Regrettably, all potential living donor resources from our family and friends have been exhausted. Within a five-month span, I lost my brother in a tragic car accident and my father, who suffered from Alzheimer’s. Then, a month after that, Dino had open heart surgery. Now we are facing the ultimate challenge of this kidney transplant.

Right now, hoping for the best also means that we are working and saving as much as we possibly can. If we are fortunate enough to receive a transplant, the medical costs are estimated at nearly $500,000. This financial burden is on the recipient, and health insurance does not cover all. Thus, Dino and I are trying to work as much as possible now, before his quality of life diminishes with worsening kidney numbers.

For Dino to qualify to be a transplant recipient, he is required to have a reliable caretaker, who is me. I am the only daily caretaker for Dino, our 15-year-old son and my mom, who is 91 years old. I also work 6 days a week. I have nowhere else to turn.

Dino is a father. Dino is a husband. But most of all, Dino is a fighter. He has a strong will to live and strives daily to endure his battles. His positivity helps overcome many challenges, but this challenge is beyond any individual’s ability alone. It requires a miracle. It requires your help.

Dino just got approved to be on a waiting list for a kidney transplant at the University of Maryland Transplant Center and we now need a matching donor. Waiting for a deceased matching donor on the waitlist could take up to 6-7 years, and there are 100,000 people ahead of him as per the National Kidney Registry. Many on the waitlist die before their turn, while on dialysis, waiting for a kidney. There is nothing that can be done, except to wait endlessly and hope that one kind person will step up to help.

CONSIDER GETTING SCREENED

If you are willing to help, please consider taking the first step – getting screened. Visit Ummclivingdonation.org.

  • The first step is to fill out a 5-minute health screening questionnaire to determine candidacy. To make a specific donation, you’ll need to enter the full name and date of birth of the intended recipient. My husband’s full name is Dino Broccoli, and his date of birth is 03/14/1969.
  • If approved, the transplant coordinator will contact you and arrange to have simple blood work to identify a match. This can be done at a facility near your residence.
  • Dino’s blood type is A+. The ideal donor’s blood type would be type A or type O (universal donor). However, even if your blood type is not type A or O, they have a Paired Kidney Exchange Program, where your donating kidney can be swapped with another donor’s kidney, who would match Dino’s. That donor’s intended recipient would also receive a kidney in return. Through this program, you will be giving a gift of life to Dino and others.
  • You will not incur any medical bills from the donation process.
  • Living kidney transplant donors can deduct up to $10,000 on their state income taxes for donation-related expenses, including lost wages, lodging, and travel expenses.
  • They perform laparoscopic surgery where very small incisions are made, thereby lessening your recovery time. The donor’s hospital stay is only 1-2 days.
  • Donating a kidney does not affect a person’s life expectancy and living donors can live normal lives with one kidney. In addition, if the donor were to ever need their own kidney transplant, they would be put on the top of the priority on the waitlist instantly.
  • There is more very good information about the donation process here.

SCARY TIME

We have been married for 16 years and have known each other for 24. Dino, our son, and my mom are the only family I have.

I am very scared.

I wait nervously when Dino gets his monthly blood work to check his kidney numbers. Despite our current predicament, Dino wakes up every day with a smile and lives each day fully. I smile back at him, but inside I am crying because I can feel how scared he is too.

I pray that his kidney holds on until we find a donor.

I pray for us to grow old together, watch our son grow up and get his college diploma, fall in love, get married. I pray that Dino will be able to one day hold his grandchild in his arms.

Today I am praying that strangers will read this article and do something impossible. I am praying that strangers will open their hearts to help a family they’ve never met survive a tribulation they cannot imagine.

Or maybe they can imagine: I know that some version of our story is being shared by at least 100,000 other people on the same kidney donor recipient list, and hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of people – children, wives, husbands, parents, friends – are losing hope in just the same way and saying just the same prayers. Half a million people are probably praying right now for the kindness of a stranger like you, to ask yourself whether you could be a potentially lifesaving kidney donor match.

Not everyone can be a kidney donor, for many different and valid reasons. Even if you can’t be a donor, you can help us tremendously by simply spreading the word by sharing our story through social media, your network, and community.

We need your help. Your support is crucial for him to live.

Thank you for listening and I truly appreciate your help in our difficult journey.

God bless.

WO has written about Dr. Kim before, when she became chair of a National Vision clinical pane. Read that story here

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