Share your life

Share your life
If you ever wonder if you could make a difference in a person's life, there are two individuals to keep in mind: Joe Mole of Elkins, WV, and the Rev. Mercy Hobbs of Vermillion.

Just to clarify things as this column continues � these two people have never met. Joe, featured last November in the Wall Street Journal, was struggling with diabetes and kidney failure.

Last month Mercy donated one of her kidneys but the recipient wasn't Joe.

It's important, however, to point out the personal struggles both individuals faced.

Mercy ultimately decided to donate one of her kidneys with the hopes of greatly improving the lifestyle of the Right Rev. Creighton Robertson of Sioux Falls.

His name likely rings a bell with many folks in Vermillion. Creighton, who is originally from Sisseton, attended the School of Law at USD. Today, he lives in Sioux Falls where he is the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese in South Dakota. His son, Jon and Jon's wife and family live here in Vermillion.

Creighton's poor performing kidneys meant he had to undergo a four-hour dialysis treatment three times a week to keep going. It's hard to say exactly if he was really feeling well. We haven't had a chance to personally talk to Creighton about that. But everything we've read indicates that dialysis just ain't the same as a healthy, fully-functioning kidney.

Mercy and her husband, the Rev. David Hussey, have known Creighton for 15 years. Their relationship naturally has remained strong since all three are associated with the local Episcopal church in Vermillion.

Mercy and David both knew of Creighton's health problems. After much soul-searching, reflection and prayer, they decided to do something about it.

In early December, surgeons at the Mayo Clinic removed one of Mercy's kidneys, and later that day, in a separate operating room, doctors transplanted the healthy organ into Creighton's body.

Mercy will never forget the first time she saw Creighton a few days after the surgery.

"Here was this guy I first met 15 years ago," she said. "The change in his appearance was quite amazing."

"They both looked great," David said, describing the appearance of both his wife and Creighton after their operarations.

So just where does Joe Mole belong in this story?

As the Wall Street Journal reported last November, Joe spent most of his life dealing with complications of diabetes, diagnosed when he was 19. His kidneys eventually failed, forcing him to start the grueling process of dialysis when he was 38.

By the prime of his life, his vision was blurring and he had lost four toes to amputation.

Despite dialysis' ability to extend one's life, the process became a burden that Joe was finding nearly too great to bear.

Joe continued to hang on until July when it looked like a potential donor kidney would become available.

Unfortunately, it was determined the organ wouldn't work.

Joe voluntarily quit attending the dialysis sessions. He died in July, 2003.

We'd like to think that Joe is an exception. Most people who must undergo dialysis decide to stick with it to sustain their lives.

The number of people who eventually take Joe's route, however, is alarming. Roughly one out of five people on dialysis quits treatment, even though it will mean certain death.

The Journal story also says that between 1995 and 1999, "about 36,000 people died this way, government statistics show. Between 2001 and 2002, the latest data available, an additional 25,000 had died."

The story says there are now 325,000 Americans on dialysis. And 100,000 start treatment each year.

David and Mercy admit it was a leap of faith, literally, that compelled her to donate one of her kidneys.

The decision to become an organ donor is, understandably, a difficult one. There are options, however, that all of us may consider. We don't, for example, have to be a living donor like Mercy.

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, there are nearly 90,700 people in the U.S. waiting for a donated organ to restore their health.

All of us, someday, will shuffle off this mortal coil. There's really no good reason to take a large collection of good organs to the grave with us.

All of us have the potential to, like Mercy, give the gift of life by becoming a living organ donor, or by allowing the harvesting of organs after we pass away.

Learn more by visiting the Coalition on Donation's Web page at www.shareyourlife.org.

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