GRAND BLANC — March is National Kidney Month, a dedicated time to raise awareness about kidney disease, but this year it’s taking a back seat to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Transplant recipients and patients waiting for donors, like 25-yearold Cesante Ward of Grand Blanc, have to be even more careful these days. While the American Society of Transplantation says there is no specific information on whether COVID-19 is more serious in transplant recipients, viruses often cause more severe disease in people with weakened immune systems.
Ward, who is waiting for his third kidney transplant, has been working from home in his job in Patient Services for the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan for two weeks now. He spends 3 ½ hours each of three days a week on dialysis while waiting for a kidney donor. He’s looking for a live donor because those transplants usually have a better outcome, but the spread of COVID- 19 may make that more difficult.
“Kidney disease is a silent killer already, and a lot of people aren’t aware of that or organ donation,” Ward said.
Ward was born with nonfunctioning kidneys. After being on dialysis from birth, he underwent his first kidney transplant at age 6. One of his posttransplant medications damaged the new kidney, and he soon returned to dialysis. He was in and out of the hospital as a young boy.
After another transplant in 2006, he attended the NKFM Kids Camp and the University of Michigan Transplant Camp, both as a camper and camp leader.
“After I went through camp leadership training, I enjoyed helping kids feel empowered to show their scars to one another and relate to one another. I wanted them to feel empowered even after they left camp,” he said.
Ward graduated in August 2018 from Oakland University with a degree in human resources development. Four months later, his transplanted kidney stopped working.
He started a Facebook page called Without a Moment to Spare and an Instagram account to help in his search for a donor, and people share his information. In the first three or four days, his accounts got more than 250 shares. His Facebook page can be found at m.facebook.com/WMSPARE.
Ward has a routine that helps him maintain a positive outlook, and it may be good advice for others who have to stay at home at this time.
“You coordinate your physical, emotional and mental activities to balance each other out,” Ward said. “I use exercise and diet. It puts you back into a more positive mindset after you’re done working out. I listen to music to relieve stress and try to do more with my hobbies. It can be challenging because of the isolation in the early stage, but it helps you get back on your feet. Journaling is a good aspect for growth. Find gratitude in daily things and use that to remember why you’re doing everything you’re doing. You just gotta focus on what you can control and live for those moments.”
With so much unknown about COVID-19, transplant recipients and those waiting for a transplant are being given the same advice as everyone else – stay home, wash your hands frequently and limit contact with others. In addition, they need to ensure they have enough supplies and medications on hand for at least two weeks.
According to the American Society of Transplantation, the risk of acquiring COVID-19 from organ donation is low. Donors are being screened for symptoms and exposure history. Living donors who have been to high-risk areas or exposed to someone diagnosed or being evaluated for COVID-19 are being asked to postpone donation for 14 to 28 days after returning. Some organ procurement organizations are testing some or all donors for COVID-19.
For more information on transplants and being a donor, contact the University of Michigan Transplant Center at 1-800-333-9013, TWPDonors@ med.umich.edu or www.uofmhealth.org/medical-services/transplant.
To register as an organ donor, visit www.giftoflifemichigan.org/become-donor.