Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Jesse Murphy

In search of a kidney


March 29, 2018

Courtesy Photo Bob Keesy smiles while holding his grandson Nolan. Keesy has chronic kidney disease and is looking for a living donor while still on the waiting list for an organ.

Those heading south of Niwot on 79th Street have noticed a big banner sign that reads “Bob NEEDS A KIDNEY”, along with a website and a phone number.

Calling that number will lead you straight to Niwot resident Bob Keesy, and he is, in fact, in need of a kidney.

Keesy’s kidney troubles began in the late 1990’s. A medication he had been taking for 15 years, along with an incident of severe dehydration and pneumonia, did irreversible damage to his kidneys.

Despite having no family history of kidney problems and none of the usual suspects that cause it, he still suffers with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD).

“I have none of the particular things that are the usual cause for getting kidney disease,” Keesy said.

After being officially approved for the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) wait list in 2013, time continued to drag on.

That’s when he decided to actively try to find a donor on his own.

“When I got placed on the waitlist, I was told maybe three years,” Keesy said. “It’s turned out to be a lot longer than that, and it’s continuing to get longer for Colorado. It’s going in the wrong direction.

“I’ve been too complacent in thinking that this is all going to solve itself for me. I woke up and said I have to do something to help myself and ideally help other people.”

UNOS divides the country into 11 regions. Colorado shares region eight with Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Missouri.

“It helps to manage where organs go in the United States,” Keesy said. “There are 11 geographic regions, and there are reasons for that, like transporting the organ, they want it to be as short as possible. Along with that there are different populations with different needs.”

Another factor in the wait time is the blood type. Keesy is O positive.

“Even though it’s the most common blood type, it’s also a universal donor,” Keesy said. “A person with that type can donate to a person with any other blood type. So people with all blood types can get organs from that pool, whereas type O can only get donors from type O. Since it’s in such high demand, the wait times tend to be longer.”

Along with deceased donors, living donors are looking to be Keesy’s best chance in finding a kidney.

“They had me start by contacting friends and family to see if there were any matches,” Keesy said. “We found out my son is O positive and he went through an evaluation at the University of Colorado Health Center. Unfortunately they ruled him out. It was kind of hard to take for us -- we thought he was fine and healthy.”

Getting an organ from a living donor makes the process a bit more complicated.

“When you’re dealing with a deceased donor, the only concern for the doctors is for a match and for the kidney recipient as far as health moving forward,” Keesy said. “If they’re dealing with a living donation, people with good kidneys can live with one, but the caveat is that they still have to be healthy.

“So the transplant organizations have two patients going through surgery, and they’re responsible for both of them being healthy. What they really want is long-life experiences for both patients. The potential living donor goes through rigorous tests to make sure there won’t be any problems in the future.”

There is also a mental aspect for living donors to overcome, he said.

“Most people have never even thought of being a donor, even for a friend, let alone someone they don’t know,” Keesy said. “The thinking just usually doesn’t go there. There has to be an awareness for a person to take action.

“Then they have to decide that it’s something they’re called to do. I use the word ‘calling’ on purpose. When you go into any form of service to the community or others like police or a firefighter, it’s almost more of a calling than it is a job.”

Keesy has built his website, www.kidneymiracle.com, to help boost awareness and garner attention for the need for living donors.

According to his blog on the Kidney Miracle website, Keesy is one of 1,598 people waiting for a kidney in Colorado. Nationwide, more than 95,000 are on lists waiting on an organ.

He said that even if the signs or website don’t get him a kidney, he hopes that it will possibly get someone thinking about donating.

“Right now we have a lot of people with kidney disease and a lot of people waiting for organs,” Keesy said. “But we don’t have enough organs from deceased donors, so it’s time to work the other half of the equation and find more living donors. Everybody has two -- in theory there should be a significant number of healthy people that could donate.”

To subscribe to the blog, enter an email address at www.kidneymiracle.com. Anyone interested in learning more about being a living donor can contact Keesy at 303-502-6579. For more information about living donations, visit www.unos.org/donation.


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