VESTAVIA HILLS, Ala. (WIAT) — A Vestavia Hills police officer in kidney failure is overwhelmed with joy and relief after finding a kidney match.
Officer Jerry Hughes-Karrh’s is calling this match a miracle following two year search because without receiving a new kidney his condition could prove fatal.
His current state of kidney failure is depleting his quality of life. Hughes-Karrh spends 9 hours every day on dialysis, his diet is completely different, and he now works in evidence instead of getting to patrol the streets.
Through UAB’s organ transplant program he found a living donor match. This is something he was told could take several years and 8 to 10 years with a deceased donor. This is time he didn’t have.
“So, it’s a little harder,” said Hughes-Karrh. “It’s a lot harder to find somebody who’s not only willing but able. It means more to me and my family than you’ll ever know.”
According to research UAB gathered, 800,000 Americans are living with kidney failure and 240 people on dialysis die every day.
Officer Hughes-Karrh considers himself one of the lucky ones. He and his family said they feel incredibly blessed now having what they’ve prayed for- more time together.
“Being able to do things with them,” said Officer Hughes-Karrh. “You know, just the simplest task with no kidneys, you just can’t do. And with this kidney I’ll be able to get back in the swing of things with my family.”
“He gets more time with not only me, but his grandkids, his wife,” added Hughes-Karrh’s daughter, Danielle Hughes. “I mean knowing that he’s going to be there, and he’ll be able to see my wedding, see my kids, it’s just out of this world.”
Officer Hughes-Karrh told CBS 42 after his story was originally shared, over 50 people applied to become a donor for him.
The kidney transplant surgery is set for December 6. Hughes-Karrh said he is forever grateful to his matching donor and all who reached out to help.
Officer Hughes-Karrh is one of many in our state battling this condition. According to Legacy of Hope, located at UAB, 1,200 people in Alabama are on the waiting list for all organs.
In 2022, there were 299 kidney transplants in Alabama. 282 of them were performed at UAB, one of the largest organ transplant programs in the southeast.
Research they gathered shows kidney disease kills more people each year than breast or prostate cancer.
UAB said more than 90,000 people are on the transplant waiting list, but fewer than 25,000 kidney transplants are performed each year in the United States.
“People might wait several years for a kidney transplant when they’re waiting for a deceased kidney,” said Ann Rayburn, Legacy of Hope Director of Education. “And so, when you have a living donor, it puts you up because you’ve brought your donor to that transplant situation and you’re not waiting for a deceased donor to be able to give you that organ that you need. So, that’s why kidney transplant is unique, because you can be a living donor.”
Rayburn said not everybody gets the kidney they need. In 2022, 90 people in Alabama died on the waiting list and 71 were too sick to be transplanted, according to Legacy of Hope.
That’s why she said living donation can be a great option. It can speed up the process for those needing a kidney like Officer Hughes-Karrh.
Rayburn is a living donor herself and said you start the process by applying online and then go through a series of tests.
“Blood tests, CT scans, EKG, that kind of stuff,” said Rayburn. “And then you go in for a clinic visit where they do a thorough exam, go over your tests and within a short period of time you’re notified if you’re eligible to donate. Sometimes donors have to do some lifestyle modifications, lose some weight or those kinds of things, to be sure that they’re healthy enough to be a donor.”
Rayburn said Legacy of Hope had 292 total organ donors in 2022 with 714 organs from those donors transplanted. These numbers do not include living donors.
To learn more about how you can become an organ donor through Legacy of Hope click here. If you are interested in applying to become a living donor through UAB’s living donor program, you can start here.