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Local business owner is in need of a new kidney, but the donation process is problematic

Published: Mar. 2, 2022 at 8:32 PM MST
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT) -Curtis Swift, Co-owner and CEO of Mesa Lavender Farms here in Grand Junction, has been farming lavender plants in the valley for years. After retiring from Colorado State University, he and his business partner, Kate Keaney collaborated his knowledge of lavender with CBD to make a variety of products.

But in the last few years, Swift has had bigger things to deal with, as he’s been living with kidney disease. When he was first diagnosed, his doctor told him he was already in stage three and within two years, he would be in stage five, which is renal failure. That’s exactly where Swift is now.

Kidneys filter the blood in the body and when they begin to go, people living with the condition can experience different symptoms. Swift says for him, some of it has been with his memory.

“Memory loss and cognitive function are one of the problems that I’ve been having,” said Swift.

Swift says he’s been on the transplant list since he was diagnosed two years ago, but people on the list are waiting for an available kidney from donors who pass away. He says however, he could get a kidney much sooner if he has someone who volunteers as a living donor. He says getting some volunteers hasn’t necessarily been an issue as he’s had some people come forward, as he awaits to get his kidney through the Veterans Affairs hospital system. He says the big problem he’s facing, is a lack of communication.

“We’ve had ten people that I know of that have contacted the V.A,” said Swift “The problem is they’re not getting back to the people who have suggested that they would give their kidney”.

According to Swift, much of the problem is due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic. He says his son reached out to the V.A. offices and was told they’re short-staffed and as such they’re unable to process more than one potential donor at a time. To Swift’s knowledge, none of his potential donors have heard anything back from the V.A.

“A lot of the people at the V.A. were then shipped out to other ICU units in the nation so they’re understaffed. And they’ve also lost their kidney transplant coordinator. So people who have called about donating a kidney have not been called back”

If Swift and a potential donor could make it through the process, he could get his much-needed kidney any time. But it he’s reliant solely on the waiting list, he says there is no way of knowing when a kidney would become available and that lack of dependable scheduling, is making it harder on running his business.

Referring to his business partner, Kate Keaney, Swift says “If I’m gone for a bunch of time and everything is going to fall on her shoulders, which means she’s not going to be able to be out and doing the things she should be doing like going to festivals and venues. And so it’s frustrating not knowing. not having the schedule. If we had a schedule, we could plan. But we don’t.”

“Which is why we’re looking for a living kidney donor,” said Keaney. ”That’s the point of reaching out and using our platforms to find a living kidney donor. Because that would be something that could be scheduled. Something that will be done.”

Keaney and Swift says the donation process begins with a matching donor. Potential donors have to have the same type of blood as Swift. Swift says he’s O type, so whoever would like to donate, would also have to have type O blood. From there, potential donors would go through preliminary health screenings and histories with the physicians at the V.A. hospital. But Keaney says none of Swift’s potential donors have made it that far, because they haven’t been contacted by the V.A.

If someone would like to be a donor for Swift, but isn’t a match, Swift says there is a type of transaction out there that could also work. If a donor with type A blood for example, wanted to donate to Swift, who’s type O, it wouldn’t work. But Swift says there could be another person in need of a kidney, who has type A blood and has a type O donor. The two patients could swap donors and get the right match.

“If somebody donates a kidney, I may not get the kidney cuz it may not be a match,” said Swift. “But it could go to somebody else who needs a kidney and they would have donor that would match me”

Swift also noted that should anyone who becomes a living kidney donor have problems later on in life with their kidneys, they automatically get bumped to the top of the waiting list for a new kidney.

Swift also says that there are only a few V.A. facilities that take care of transplants. In his case with needing a kidney, he and any potential donor would have to make the journey to Portland Ore. where the actual transplant surgery would happen.

KJCT did reach out to the V.A. offices here in Grand Junction and in Portland Ore. for more information about the donation process, but did not hear back at this time.

If you would like to consider becoming a living kidney donor for Curtis, or anyone within the V.A.’s system, you can call the Portland transplant center 573-721-7860 and speak with nurse coordinator for kidney transplants. For specifically donating to Curtis Swift, just mention him by name.

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