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Transplant Selection: April 22, 2012

It’s a simple fact: the demand for transplant organs exceeds the supply. So it’s important to ensure the best use of these invaluable gifts. Gulf Coast Medical Center has the only certified transplant program in Southwest Florida.

“We do adult kidney transplants. We have separate certification to do both deceased donor transplants and living donor transplants,” says Barbara Miller, Director of Kidney Transplant for Lee Memorial Health System.

Potential recipients are carefully screened to ensure the best chance for success.

“Certainly their heart needs to be strong enough to withstand major surgery. They can’t smoke, they have to be under certain body weight,” says Miller.

End stage renal disease is another criteria. It means kidney function has dropped to 15-20% of normal capacity. That’s where Wayne Jenson found himself.

“I had a hereditary kidney problem. Mine completely wore out by the time I was in my mid 40s.”

In the years since Wayne got his kidney, doctors changed their attitude about age.

“It used to be that anyone over 70 or 75 would not be considered a candidate. However as people are living longer, they’re staying in better shape. We actually are transplanting some people in their 80s,” says Miller.

Once someone passes their screening they can be put on a list. Nationally it can take up to five years to get a new kidney. The wait is much shorter in Southwest Florida.

“Our waiting list is averaging about twenty months. That is significantly shorter than many of the other centers,” says Miller.

Twenty years later, Wayne’s new kidney is still pulling its own weight.

“I just had my clearance checked, that was pretty phenomenal.”