Los Osos resident Julie Hock is on a list to receive a transplant to replace his deteriorating kidney.
But with more than 92,000 others waiting for kidney transplants nationwide and a blood type that limits his pool of donors, Hock expects his name to be called in about five years.
At the age of 76, he doesn’t have that kind of time.
“If I have to wait that long, I’ll never make it,” Hock said. “The only thing that’s going to help me is somebody willing to step forward and donate a kidney.”
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More Americans need transplants of kidneys than any other type of organ, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, a nonprofit that manages the nation’s organ transplant system under contract from the federal government.
But people with kidney problems who undergo dialysis (a medical process that removes excess waste and water from the blood) often live longer than those requiring transplants of other organs, such as the heart or lungs, said Anne Paschke, a spokeswoman for UNOS. Hock, a retired manufacturing businessman and Los Angeles nightclub owner who avidly supports Cal Poly arts and athletics, said he’s not shy about asking for help these days.
That’s because it’s his best chance at prolonging his life on the Central Coast with his wife, Brenda Hock, a former caterer who used to host the radio program “SLO Cooking with Brenda Hock.”
Because no one in Hock’s family qualifies as a donor, the sacrifice would make him “eternally grateful.”
“I would be absolutely overwhelmed and humbled by it,” Hock said. “Anyone in my position, you’re essentially relying on a total stranger’s benevolence to literally save your life.”
Kidneys function essentially as a filter of the blood, removing wastes that are diverted to the bladder.
People are born with left and right kidneys. But most people can live a healthy life with just one, making donating an option for those who meet the health qualifications.
Numerous factors are taken into consideration when coordinating an organ donation, including blood type, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.
Hock has Type O blood and can only receive a kidney donation from a person with the same blood type, which narrows the field of potential donors. For comparison, people with Type AB blood can receive transplants from donors of any blood type.
Preference also is given to children, recipients living in the same geographic area as the donor and those who have been waiting the longest.
Donations to those on the list typically come from someone who has recently died and designated their organ for donation or the family authorizes the removal. But anyone living can voluntarily donate if properly matched with a recipient, which is what Hock is hoping for.
The average wait time for kidney donations is about 3.5 years, Paschke said.
Public appeals for organ donations aren’t uncommon, though there is some division over the practice in the medical community because a successful recipient may obtain an organ much more quickly than a person who has been waiting for a long time.
But no rules are in place prohibiting outreach by those hoping a living donor will come forward, and proponents say lives are saved by spreading the word.
Hock’s kidneys function at about 13 percent efficiency. He could fall into renal failure at any time, which means his kidneys would stop working, and if he didn’t get to a hospital for dialysis quickly, he could die in a short time.
He has avoided his doctor’s recommendation for dialysis for about a year. Hock views it as a last resort.
Brenda Hock said anyone willing to donate an organ is “extraordinary” and “can walk through life with their head held super high for the rest of their life.”
How to help
To contact Julie Hock, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about how to donate a kidney, go to https://register.donatelifecalifornia.org.