KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A brother and sister who know all too well what it’s like to have kidney failure are a shining example of why we chose the East Tennessee Kidney Foundation for our 6 On Your Side Day of Service project for July.
“Sometimes it’s sort of like a frog. You put it in warm water, and as the water temperatures goes up, the frog doesn’t really know what’s going on,” said Link McGinnis. He is talking about kidney failure caused by polycystic kidney disease.
He and his sister Vicki Geist inherited inherited the disease, in which cysts grow on the kidneys, causing them to slowly shut down over time.
“I took procreate shots that they use for chemo patients to help them get through the day,” said Geist.”Sometimes it’s sort of like a frog. You put it in warm water, and as the water temperatures goes up, the frog doesn’t really know what’s going on,” said Link McGinnis. He is talking about kidney failure caused by polycystic kidney disease.
“Our failure was slow and it took a lot of time. If you saw us from one year to the next, you could see quite a bit of difference,” McGinnis said.
All that changed for this brother and sister almost one decade ago when they found out they were going into kidney failure.
“We both started looking for living donors and put the word out, and had a lot of people offer to donate kidneys to us and get tested,” said Geist.
It wasn’t long before two living donors were found to be a match.
“It’s just incredible for someone to see a need and say, ‘I can do that,'” said McGinnis.
6 News was at Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville in 2005 when McGinnis went through his surgery.
“Probably I wouldn’t be standing here if it wasn’t for organ donation,” he said.
Polycystic kidney disease is an unwanted legacy in the family, first starting with their grandmother who died from it and then passed to their mother.
Their mother Lois had a kidney transplant 20 years ago. Now mother, daughter and son are living full and healthy lives.
“Of course modern science has come a long way, and once you get a new kidney, you really are just as good as anyone else,” said Geist.
“My life has completely changed because of my donor,” McGinnis said.
This family is not alone. The numbers are staggering. According to Donate Life Tennessee, almost 100,000 people in the United States are living with kidney failure, and of those, only about 17,000 received a transplant last year.
That number in Tennessee is 23,000, with less than 500 transplants last year.