By Rebecca Hertz
Killeen Daily Herald
What does it take to convince someone to become an organ donor?
For Ora Carter of Harker Heights, it has been experiencing a life-threatening illness and losing two brothers to kidney disease.
Carter suffers from end stage renal failure brought on by undetected hypertension. She has already had one kidney transplant that lasted three weeks before her body rejected the organ due to a secondary blood-clotting disorder.
Three days a week, she goes for hemodialysis, which removes wastes and free water from her blood.
She has been on dialysis since 1995 and now because the veins in her arms, legs and stomach are no longer viable, she has a central line in her chest to connect her body to the machine.
"Yesterday the machine clotted off on me so they couldn't give me my blood back," Carter said. "I was really wiped out. When I got home, I couldn't even get up, and it messes with my eyesight."
According to OrganDonor.gov, there were 11,906 transplants from January through May 2009. The number of registered donors for the same period was 6,005, and the number of candidates on the transplant waiting list is 103,013, as of Aug. 11, 2009.
Carter said her family and friends offer to donate a kidney for her, but she explains to them that it would do no good to get a new kidney if her blood is going to clot and choke off the organ.
But new hope is on the horizon. She was recently referred to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, where she underwent a multitude of tests and consultations.
She plans to return there for her second transplant in September. Her brother will donate one of his kidneys. They told her they treat individuals with clotting disorders like hers.
"Johns Hopkins is the top in the nation," Carter said. "They told me I could use any kidney, it doesn't have to be a match."
Spending years on dialysis has torn her body down, Carter said. She used to be able to go out and do things after dialysis, but now she does well to just make it home. She relies on a large network of family and friends for support.
"It gets stressful sometimes and I just don't want anyone around me," she said.
For a while she was able to go into the dialysis center on her "days off" and talk with the other patients, especially those who are just starting treatment. She offered support and shared her experiences.
It's like a job and you have to keep going to this job if you want to live, Carter said. Many of the people she has grown to care about are no longer there.
"I wake up in the morning a lot of times and I just don't want to go," she said. "But I go and I haven't missed any dialysis."
It all started for Carter when a friend who is a nurse convinced her she needed to see a doctor after declining the friend's shopping invitation for the fourth time.
After being such an active individual, her friend recognized that Carter was tired, weak and not herself.
Her husband was in Germany at the time and she wanted to see what was going on before she told him she was sick, expecting that the doctor would fix the problem and she would be fine.
But the doctor directed her to contact her husband to return home immediately. She needed a biopsy but that couldn't happen because at that point she had only three-fourths of her kidney function left.
Now all of her family and everyone she knows are donors. People don't realize that after a family member dies, they can donate the organs, Carter said.
"We are not promised tomorrow – not the next few minutes," Carter said. "If you want to give the gift of life, be an organ donor."
Contact Rebecca Hertz at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7469.