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People Who Say they Can’t Quit Smoking Are Gutless Liars!


By Bob Aronson…former smoker

smoking cartoon

if that headline doesn’t get your attention I don’t know what will.

“I can’t quit smoking,” is BS.  You can quit, but you are a pansy, no guts.  You can spread that “Can’t quit” manure elsewhere.  It doesn’t work here because it’s a big lie.

Do I have your attention?

This post is aimed at smokers, whether you are just starting the habit or have smoked for a while and are thinking about quitting.  I am writing this to alert you to smoking related issues not to draw attention to myself or my condition.  I seek no sympathy nor attention.

Yes, this is a posting that encourages you to ignore the temptation to start smoking and/or to quit smoking if you already have the habit. In the interest of full disclosure let me tell you why you should read this. You should do so because I offer hope and straight talk.  No one could possibly have had a greater addiction to cigarettes than I did.  And…I know about addiction, too.  Not only did I quit smoking (1991) I also quit drinking (1982) after years as a practicing alcoholic.   I have not had a drink since.

Let me get right to the point.  Even though I quit smoking almost 25 years ago it is killing me.  When I die I would imagine that my addiction to cigarettes will be the chief cause of my demise because I have emphysema and asthma, Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (COPD).  Had I not quit smoking when I did I would have been dead long ago.  Recently my pulmonologist told me that If I had continued to smoke,  I would have needed a lung transplant long ago.  For those of you who don’t know me I had a heart transplant in 2007 and smoking may have been a contributor to the heart failure that caused me to need that life-saving surgery.

I know how hard it is to quit smoking and I refuse to accept, “I’ve tried many times and cannot quit.”  That, my friend, is pure unadulterated BS.  You are only fooling yourself with that nonsense.  The fact of the matter is you don’t have the guts to quit.  You can’t handle a little discomfort so you light up another smoke and say, “I can’t quit.”  And again I say, “BS.”  Tough talk?  Damned right it is.  If you think the discomfort of quitting smoking is hard to handle try the discomfort a of lung cancer as an option, or maybe emphysema.

I smoked up to 4 packs a day for 37 years and I quit.  Was it easy?  Of course not!  It hurt, it was painful, I was an SOB to live with, but damnit I quit.  I used every gimmick out there to help me break the habit and finally was rescued by nicotine gum.  I probably quit smoking 3 or 4 dozen times maybe more.  You see, you don’t quit once, fail and say, “I tried, I can’t quit,” because you haven’t tried.  The way to quit smoking is to keep quitting until you quit. You never give up, you quit every day, several times a day until finally you have quit for good.

I always kept my smokes and a lighter in my shirt pocket.  Almost every day when I left home for work I would automatically reach for a cigarette and the lighter so I could get my hit of nicotine.  Finally, I got to the point where every time I reached into that pocket for the cigarettes and lighter I would pull both out and throw them out the window of the car.  I did that every day for weeks.  Later in the day I’d find myself buying another pack and a lighter and the next day I would toss them out the window. “The hell with littering,” I would say, “My life’s at stake here.”

After about a year of all this nonsense I finally had my last cigarette in January of 1991.  You see, I had just watched my father die of emphysema.  At least something good came of his death.  I was able to quit.  I was addicted to nicotine gum for two years after that and lemon drops for another year but I quit, by God, I quit.

You know why it’s so hard?  It is because you are an addict, just like any drunk or junkie.  When you hear someone say, “A cigarette tastes so good after a meal,” that’s just more BS.  The reason it feels good is because it’s been a while since your last cigarette and you are going into withdrawal.  As soon as you light up you stop the withdrawal and feel better.  It is no different than getting a hit of heroin or a good slug of booze.

From the time I was 15 years old in 1954 until 1991 (37 years) when I was 52 years old I was a smoker, a heavy smoker.  Some days when I went to work I would throw 4 packs of cigarettes in my briefcase and finish them before I retired for the night..  That’s 80 cigarettes.

There are approximately 600 ingredients in cigarettes. When burned, they create more than 7,000 chemicals. At least 69 of these chemicals are known to cause cancer, and many are poisonous as well.  Here are just a few of the chemicals in tobacco smoke, and other places they are found:

  • Acetone –nail polish remover
  • Acetic Acid –  ingredient in hair dye
  • Ammonia –household cleaner
  • Arsenic – rat poison
  • Butane – lighter fluid
  • Cadmium –battery acid
  • Carbon Monoxide car exhaust fumes
  • Formaldehyde – embalming fluid

A final note on this subject.  In 1998 I lost my wife of 35 years to lung cancer. She, too was a smoker and she died a horrible death, no one should have to suffer the way she did and the way thousands of others do every day.  Smoking is a terrible, disgusting and deadly habit.  I don’t care who you are, you have a responsibility to yourself and to those who love you to quit smoking.  You must.  After a while the urges disappear and you can live a normal life again.  You might even find that you’ll take great pride in being able to say, “I used to smoke, but I don’t anymore.”

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New heart, new life, new man

Feeling better than ever at age 73

Bob Aronson of Bob’s Newheart is a 2007 heart transplant recipient, the founder of Facebook’s over 4,000 member Organ Transplant Initiative (OTI) and the author of most of these donation/transplantation blogs. You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org.  And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.  You can register to be a donor at http://www.donatelife.net.  It only takes a few minutes.

Proposed Medicare Rule Would End Support of Anti-Rejection Drugs While We Pay More For Boondoggles


By Bob Aronson

UPDATE MARCH 10, 2014

Attention readers — Your outrage worked. Congratulations!!!!

The Obama administration said Monday that it would scrap much of a proposed plan to limit the types of antidepressants and other drugs that seniors can get through Medicare after a backlash from lawmakers and the health industry.

Original blog published February 28, 2014

This is one of the most important blogs I have published.  It is a direct appeal to you to take action.  You will find the steps you need to take at the end of this post.

here to help cartoonA government bureaucracy is seeking to change the rules that allow organ transplant recipients a broad choice of anti-rejection drugs.  If adopted it is the opinion of many medical experts that without the flexibility to select optional drugs many transplant recipients could die. 

Ask yourself, “How does it make sense to pay the cost of a transplant and then refuse to pay for the drugs that make it work? Would we train thousands of men and women to be soldiers and then send them into battle without weapons?”  It is quite likely that your answer would be, “Of course not! That would be insane.”

Unfortunately some bureaucrats are incapable of making decisions based on logic.  They waste billions of dollars and in the process hope we are fooled into thinking that wasted money represents good “investments.”  When these good “investments” go bad they don’t stop pouring money into them they cut expenditures elsewhere — and those cuts cause great harm to the citizens whose tax dollars pay their salaries.

This report is factual and intentionally biased. It is biased because I am a 75 year old heart transplant recipient who counts on Medicare to provide me with my anti-rejection drugs — drugs the government would like to take away so they can fund boondoggles.

Here is some perspective.  When you get a transplant, you must take anti-rejection or immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of your life.  Often, though, it is medically necessary to change to something different and more effective.  If the option for a life-saving change is taken away, many of us will die. 

How the rule makers can ignore that simple, medical fact is beyond me, but they also ignore reality when they say making these cuts will save $1.9 billion over several years.  Here’s reality.  If the changes are adopted they will not only endanger lives, they will in the end, result in taxpayers paying more, not less as the rule’s advocates suggest.   

Here’s how it works in real life.  If organ transplant patients don’t take their immunosuppressant drugs they will go into rejection and will be hospitalized at Medicare’s expense.

Physicians who are sworn to save lives will make every effort to do just that regardless of cost.  In the case of Kidney failure, rejection dialysiscould mean years of dialysis, a treatment that costs about $50,000 per patient per year (there are currently about 400,000 Americans on dialysis). In all cases it is entirely possible that patients who are rejecting their organs could be re-listed for second transplants. Depending on the organ, a transplant can cost in excess of $1 Million for the surgery and the first year of care.

It seems that the cost cutters think that by limiting options there is an almost immediate savings.  There isn’t.  There is, instead, an almost immediate rise in cost.  They seem to use the same twisted logic when trying to save money that they use when spending it.  You can read the detailed proposal here http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-01-10/pdf/2013-31497.pdf

Some lawmakers insist that budget cuts be made and they are right, we spend too much as a nation but does it make sense to cut spending that will kill people?

There are two current military projects that are a very big part of the motivation behind the budget cuts.  They are the Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.  Together they have created cost overruns of nearly $200 Billion.  That’s right $200 Billion and the defense department wants more money even though the two projects are plagued with problems. 

These ghouls would actually take medicine from people who will die without it rather than cut dollars from bloated out-of-control projects that were never necessary anyway.

In 2005 the cost of the Gerald R. Ford was estimated to be about $8 billion, excluding the $4.7 billion spent on research Gerald r ford 3and development. Each year the estimate has gone up.  In 2013 a Government Accounting Office (GAO) report said that construction costs are now estimated at $12.8 billion.  That’s 22% over the 2008 budget, plus $4.7 billion in research and development costs.  Not only have the costs continued to rise above the original estimates the Navy is now asking for another $500 million and the aircraft carrier is nowhere near being ready for sea and is plagued with problems. If you would like to know more about the Ford and its problems this link will get you started.  http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/3110602/posts

F-35 3Then there is the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.  According to Senator John McCain it is the most expensive weapons system in history and there’s no assurance it will ever do what it was designed to do.  Despite repeated disappointments and failures, we keep throwing good money after bad at it and now that project is $163 billion over budget, seven years behind schedule, and will cost taxpayers about twice as much as sending a man to the moon.  The cost of manufacturing the jets has increased a whopping 75 percent from its original estimate, and is now closing in on $400 billion. Over its lifetime, the F-35 program is expected to cost U.S. Taxpayers $1.5 trillion, between construction and maintenance of the jets.  http://www.pogo.org/blog/2013/03/20130306-air-forces-f-35a-not-ready-for-combat.html

If you would like more details on the F-35 this report provides them along with other links.
http://swampland.time.com/2013/12/18/how-not-to-buy-the-most-costly-weapon-system-in-the-history-of-the-world/

Instead of cutting out the fat in the national budget, though, the bureaucrats have decided to cut spending that very likely will result in death.  They would limit coverage of anti-rejection medicine that keeps organ transplant recipients alive.  Here’s a simple declarative sentence, “When you take away medicine that keeps people alive, they will die.” What part of that sentence don’t they understand? 

The American Kidney Fund is one ofakf logo two many organizations that takes exception to the proposed new rule.  Recently they sent out this letter to their members and other interested parties.

akf logo two

Dear____,

I’m writing to request your help with an issue that is of great importance to our nation’s transplant recipients.

Individuals who are fortunate enough to receive a kidney transplant—or a transplant of any other organ—must take immunosuppressive medications for the life of the transplanted organ to reduce the risk of losing the organ. Some patients rely on Medicare Part D to cover the cost of these medications.

Immunosuppressive drugs are one of six “protected classes” of drugs under Medicare Part D. This means that Medicare Part D must cover all approved immunosuppressive drugs, giving transplant recipients access to the full range of available medications.

On January 10, 2014, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed a change to Medicare Part D that would revise the criteria for these protected classes of drugs. Part D plans would no longer be required to cover all approved immunosuppressive medications—instead, Part D plans would only be required to cover each subclass of immunosuppressive medications.

The American Kidney Fund believes that by not covering all of the specific drugs within each subclass, this rule would put patients’ health at risk. Transplant recipients often need adjustments to their immunosuppressive drug regimen. They require access to the full range of approved medications.

We are working hard to ensure that policymakers hear from the kidney community on this issue. You may click here to send a personalized letter to your Congressional representatives urging CMS to reverse this proposal. https://secure2.convio.net/akf/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=119

Thank you for your participation in the American Kidney Fund’s Advocacy Network. Your voice makes a difference!

Sincerely,

Nikia Okoye

CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) will take public comment through March 7th. Please urge them to reject the draft rule change.  You can contact CMS with your comments in this manner. 

If you would like to comment directly to CMS you must do so before 5 PM on March 7, 2014.  Here’s how.

ADDRESSES

In commenting, please refer to file code CMS–4159–P. Because of  staff and resource limitations, we cannot accept comments by facsimile (FAX) transmission.  You may submit comments in one of

four ways (please choose only one of the ways listed):

1. Electronically.  You may submit electronic comments on this regulation to http://www.regulations.gov  or go directly to http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=CMS-2014-0007-0002 . Follow the ‘‘Submit a comment’’ instructions.

2. By regular mail.  You may mail written comments to the following address ONLY: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Department of Health and Human Services, Attention: CMS–4159–P, P.O. Box 8013, Baltimore, MD 21244–8013. Please allow sufficient time for mailed comments to be received before the close of the comment period.

3. By express or overnight mail.  You may send written comments to the following address ONLY: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Department of Health and Human Services, Attention: CMS–4159–P, Mail Stop C4–26–05, 7500 Security Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 21244–1850.

4. By hand or courier. Alternatively, you may deliver (by hand or courier) your written comments NLY to the following addresses prior to the close of the comment period: a. For delivery in Washington, DC—Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Department of  Health and Human Services, Room 445– G, Hubert H. Humphrey Building, 200 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20201.

(Because access to the interior of the Hubert H. Humphrey Building is not readily available to persons without federal government identification, commenters are encouraged to leave their comments in the CMS drop slots located in the main lobby of the building. A stamp-in clock is available for persons wishing to retain a proof of filing by stamping in and retaining an

extra copy of the comments being filed.) b. For delivery in Baltimore, MD— Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Department of Health and Human Services, 7500 Security Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 21244–1850.If you intend to deliver your comments to the Baltimore address, call telephone number (410) 786–9994 in advance to schedule your arrival with one of our staff members.

Comments erroneously mailed to the addresses indicated as appropriate for hand or courier delivery may be delayed and received after the comment period.

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magic kindom in backgroundBob Aronson is a 2007 heart transplant recipient, the founder and primary author of the blogs on this site and the founder of Facebook’s over 3,000 member Organ Transplant Initiative group.

Now retired and living in Jacksonville, Florida with his wife Robin he spends his time advocating for patients with end stage diseases and for organ recipients.  He is also active in helping his wife with her art business at art festivals and on her Rockin Robin Prints site on Etsy. 

Bob is a former journalist, Governor’s Communication Director and international communications consultant.

Kidney Disease — What You Need To Know


kidney cartoon 2

Blog by Bob Aronson

My last blog was about kidney disease and so is this one.  “Steering Toward Hope” told about Johnny Racine the Canadian father of 16 year old twin boys and how they turned their 2007 Ford Mustang into an 800 horsepower fire breathing showpiece named “The Kidney Hope Car.”  Racine, his boys and the rest of the “Steering” team will travel the width of Canada to promote organ donation and to raise money for kidney research.

This post will take a different but complimentary approach.  The law of supply and demand applies to human organs as it does to many other commodities.  While we must work harder than ever to increase the supply we must concurrently do everything we can to reduce the demand.  It is the only way we will ever arrive at anything even close to resembling a balance of the two. 

The following paragraphs will examine kidney disease from several angles — from listening to how patients describe their illness to prevention, treatment and what the future holds.

Before I get into the real life, real people part of this blog, let me first lay out the facts about Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD).  It is a major health problem that affects more than 26 million Americans.  It is the ninth-leading cause of death in the U.S.   While the numbers are different elsewhere every country is having the same experience.  Whether you are from Singapore, New Zealand, Canada or Peru you will find that kidney disease is on the rise and there are not enough organs for the number of people who need transplants.

Of the 26 million Americans with kidney disease, about half a million face kidney failure, the condition that requires dialysis. Dialysis, though, is not a cure and in many cases is a stop gap effort while the patient awaits an organ transplant — but transplants are hard to get. 

At this writing in November of 2013 there are almost 100,000 people on the list awaiting kidney transplants but 5-6,000 of them die while waiting because the supply of organs not only does not meet demand it is falling farther and farther behind.  Unlike other transplants though, one can also get a kidney from a living donor but there aren’t enough of them either in fact the number of living kidney donors has fallen steadily for the past several years, to 13,040 in 2012, despite the growing need.  Regardless of the source the average wait time for a Kidney Transplant in the U.S. is 1,121 days. 

I’m hoping this blog will help people understand two things. 1) how to prevent kidney disease and 2) what to expect if you get it.  But first, I think it is important to discuss what causes CKD.

Causes of Kidney Disease

The two main causes of chronic kidney disease are diabetes and high blood pressure, which are responsible for up to two-thirds of the cases. Diabetes happens when your blood sugar is too high, causing damage to many organs in your body, including the kidneys and heart, as well as blood vessels, nerves and eyes. High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when the pressure of your blood against the walls of your blood vessels increases. If uncontrolled, or poorly controlled, high blood pressure can be a leading cause of heart attacks, strokes and chronic kidney disease. Also, chronic kidney disease can cause high blood pressure.

Other conditions that affect the kidneys are:

  • Glomerulonephritis, a group of diseases that cause inflammation and damage to the kidney’s filtering units.
  •  Inherited diseases, such as polycystic kidney disease, which causes large cysts in the kidneys that damage the surrounding tissue
  • Repeated urinary infections.
  • Pregnancy problems. Sometimes a narrowing of the womb can occur that prevents normal outflow of urine causing it instead to flow back up to the kidney causing infections and kidney damage.
  •  Lupus and other immune system diseases
  • Obstructions caused by kidney stones, tumors or, in men, an enlarged prostate gland.

High risk groups include those with diabetes, hypertension and family history of kidney failure.  African Americans, Hispanics, Pacific Islanders, American Indians and senior citizens are at increased risk.

Before we get into the details of kidney disease and what to do if you have it, let us first discuss how to avoid it.  While there is no sure fire way to prevent kidney problems there are many very effective steps you can take because lifestyle can be a great contributor to the development of all diseases.

Avoiding Kidney Disease

national kidney foundation logoThe National Kidney Foundation has the following guidelines to reduce the risk of developing kidney disease:

  • Reduce sodium intake: Americans consume too much sodium (salt)
  • Limit red meat: Diets high in protein – especially those with animal protein – may harm the kidneys. Red meat is also high in saturated fat.
  • Avoid soda: Sugar-sweetened drinks, like sodas, are high in calories and contain no nutritious value. Additionally, colas have phosphorus additives which can damage kidneys.
  • Give up processed foods: Potato chips, crackers, cheese spreads, instant potato mix, and deli meats are all examples of processed foods that are high in phosphorus additives and sodium – both of which can have a damaging effect on the kidneys.
  • Reduce sugar intake: Consuming too much sugar can result in diabetes or obesity – both linked to kidney disease.
  • Sit less and stand more: Recent research has linked sitting for 8 hours or more a day with developing kidney disease.
  • Exercise and lose weight: Diabetes is responsible for 44 percent of all new cases of kidney failure. Obesity and Type 2 diabetes are on the rise and can often be treated and reversed.
  • Manage high blood pressure: Both considered silent killers, many people don’t realize high blood pressure and kidney disease are linked. Controlling blood pressure levels can prevent kidney damage and failure.
  • Avoid long term use of kidney-toxic drugs: Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen brand names (Motrin, Advil, and Nuprin).
  • Get tested: Ask your doctor for an annual urine test to check for protein in the urine, one of the earliest signs of kidney disease, and a blood test for creatinine

But…there’s a whole lot more to preventing kidney disease.  The Correct Diet Can Help Avoid Kidney Disease  http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/259203.php (See this link for the full story.)

Bad diet choices and habits like smoking and obesity are linked to ajkd logoan increased risk for kidney disease, suggests a new study published in the American Journal of Kidney Disease.

A group of investigators, led by Alex Chang, MD, of Johns Hopkins University, discovered that people with regular kidneys whose diet quality was bad – high in processed and red meats, sodium, and sugar-sweetened beverages, and low in fruit, nuts, legumes, whole grains, and low-fat dairy – were more likely to develop kidney disease.

Just one percent of people without unhealthy diet or lifestyle choices developed protein in their urine – an early sign of kidney damage. On the other hand, 13% of participants who had at least three unhealthy factors such as obesity, smoking, and poor diet developed protein in their urine.

Obese people, i.e. those with a body mass index (BMI) of at least 30, were twice as likely to develop kidney disease, the authors reported. A poor diet independently influenced risk for chronic kidney disease after adjusting for weight and other influential factors.

In total, those who ended up with kidney disease were more likely…

  • to be African American
  • to have high blood pressure
  • to have diabetes
  • to have a family history of kidney disease
  • have a higher intake of soft drinks, fast food, and red meat compared to those who did not have kidney disease.

How it Feels to Have Kidney Disease

Now let’s get to the disease itself. The medical profession can describe it in terms no one can understand but I prefer to hear from patients.  What does it feel like to have kidney disease, how does your body change?  That’s a tough question to answer because so many people have no symptoms or symptoms that are so mild they don’t notice them but we did find some clear, understandable and frightening explanations.

We are going to look at symptoms of kidney failure from two perspectives. First the little tell-tale signs that something might be amiss and secondly the more specific complaints as told by patients.  Fist the little signs that indicate you might have kidney disease but don’t diagnose yourself.  See your physician.  You might have kidney disease if you:

  • feel more tired and have less energy
  • have trouble concentrating
  • have a poor appetite
  • have trouble sleeping
  • have muscle cramping at night
  • have swollen feet and ankles
  • have puffiness around your eyes, especially in the morning
  • have dry, itchy skin
  • Need to urinate more often, especially at night

Now let’s look at more serious conditions. If you are feeling anything like any of the following people you probably should see your doctor as soon as possible.

  • “I feel like I have the flu and am cold most of the time and. When I take my temperature, it is normal. I feel sort of dizzy, have a loss of appetite, food doesn’t have any taste, I have shortness of breath, no energy, and am nauseous.  It’s pretty miserable.”
  • “When I first got sick I really thought it was a normal cold. I had a fever, was sneezing, runny nose etc. Then it got worse to where I was throwing up, had blood coming out in spits, vomit, urine, etc. Then it became really hard to breath and I couldn’t lay down anymore as it would cause me to suffocate. I ended up in the hospital where they told me both my kidneys failed and liquid was pushed up to my lungs which was causing me to suffocate. I don’t want to scare anyone but please learn from my mistake of not going to the hospital for about 3 weeks after I first got the cold like symptoms. Get a check up even if you think it is a cold!”
  • “My kidney failure was discovered by accident through routine blood work at the time of my yearly physical. The first red flag was a high potassium level on two different blood draws over a two month period of time. I had observed several symptoms too,  The first symptom strangely was an “itchy back,” another one was an “ill feeling” — not being very hungry – sweating — breathlessness — a rapid heart rate — and discomfort (pain) in the location of the left kidney. These “symptoms” did not appear all at once or I would have seen a doctor. I now know that all of these are symptoms of chronic kidney failure. It is vital to be informed and educated.” 
  •  “I was diagnosed about three years ago with stage 3 kidney failure. I had no signs that I was aware of as I also have congestive heart failure.  Now, I itch alll over my body, perspire excessively and have extreme pain in my back, neck,shoulders and legs, as well as increased ankle swelling.”
  • “I did not realize I had quit urinating until my husband and I went on a long road trip. I didn’t feel the need to stop to urinate at all. I paid no attention at the time but now I remember that I was very nauseous, vomiting, and had horrible leg cramps. On the third day I went to the ER and was admitted to the ICU. After five dialysis treatments I started to recover.   I now measure my output just to be sure.”

For the sake of education let’s assume you have been diagnosed with kidney disease. What are your options?  There really are only two.  1) you can choose to allow your medical team to treat it with medication and ultimately dialysis.  2) a kidney transplant but you must qualify and only a medical team at a transplant center can determine if you are a candidate for a transplant.

If Dialysis is Ordered

Chronic kidney disease continually gets worse and eventually leads to end-stage renal disease, also known as kidney failure.

\Your doctor might recommend you begin dialysis treatments once you reach the point where you have only 10 to 15 percent of kidney function left.

With kidney failure, the toxins and excess fluid that your kidneys should be releasing begin to build up in your body. People suffering from kidney failure begin dialysis to help their bodies remove these wastes, salts and fluid.

Two kinds of Dialysis

  1. Hemodialysis and
  2. Peritoneal dialysis.

Hemodialysis is typically performed at dialysis centers or hospitals but some clinics offer smaller devices for home use.

Hemodialysis, patients generally have an access point  in their arm to which the dialysis machine is connected.  On average It takes aobut four hours for the blood that is drawn from your body to be cleansed and returned.

Peritoneal dialysis is more likely to be done at home after you have a catheter placed in your stomach (a minor surgery).

There are two kinds of Peritoneal dialysis, 1) continuous ambulatory and 2) continuous cycling

Continuous cycling peritoneal dialysis is usually done at night. Before retiring you attach the dialysis machine tube to your catheter which pumps a solution into your stomach.  It stays there for a few hours so your stomach can act as a filter allowing waste and other fluids to pass through it into the solution.

Continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis is much different because you don’t need a  machine. You simply run dialysis solution into your abdomen through the catheter and after 4k to 6 hours drain it into a bag.  A physician can tell you how often during the day you need to do this

Risk Factors

There are several.  They include anemia, bone disease, high blood pressure and depression. Some patients on hemodialysis might have also have problems with low blood pressure.

Patients undergoing peritoneal dialysis are at risk of developing peritonitis which is an infection in the stomach lining. Your doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics to treat the problem.

 Got questions?  Many answers can be found here.

http://www.nwkidney.org/dialysis/startingOut/basic/faqs.html

 A Kidney Transplant

If it has been determined that a Kidney transplant is your only option this information may prove to be invaluable. 

KidneyBuzz.com encourages patients to stay as healthy as possible by managing stress, eating well, and staying active. It is important for patients to remain as well as possible during this time, so they are ready for kidney transplant surgery as soon as a donor organ becomes available. For patients who have a living organ donor, scheduling transplant surgery can take into account the health status of the recipient as well as other factors.

Manage your stress. Many patients constantly worry about their treatments, blood work results, future surgeries, etc. Education and support groups both online such as KidneyBuzz.com, and offline provide patients with tools and support to manage their stress and cope with the challenges associated with their condition. Recommended Reading: Will You be Ready when Your Time Comes for a Kidney Transplant? (this link and links below from KidneyBuzz)

There are other strategies that you can employ to expedite obtaining a Kidney Transplant including listing at more than one transplant center (Multi-Listing). Research has consistently shown that patients who are strategically Multiple Listed will greatly increase their chances of receiving a Kidney Transplant faster.   Nevertheless, only a mere 4.7% of individuals with CKD utilize the Multiple Listing technique.

KidneyBuzz Recommended Reading: “Ins-and -Outs” of Increasing your Chances of Getting a Kidney Faster

There are also website resources available that assist people with CKD to find Kidney Transplant Centers with the lowest average wait times that are the closest to where they live. These free user friendly website tools can be particularly helpful to people who are on a Kidney Transplant Waiting List in a high wait time area because it can significantly increase their access to  Kidney Transplant Centers options with far lower wait times. You can email KidneyBuzz.com at contact@kidneybuzz.com for more information and direct links to discussed sites.

Once you have determined the treatment track you will take the next logobig question most people have is, “How do I pay for the it?”  Well, if you have regular health insurance that might cover it.  If not the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC) http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/financialhelp/ offer this information”

In 1972, Congress passed legislation making people of any age with permanent kidney failure eligible for Medicare, a program that helps people age 65 or older and people with disabilities pay for medical care, usually up to 80 percent. The remaining 20 percent can still pose a significant financial burden on patients. Fortunately, other public and private resources can help. Anyone with permanent kidney failure who does not have adequate insurance coverage should seek the help of a certified or licensed social worker. Every dialysis and transplant center has a social worker who can help people with kidney failure locate and apply for financial assistance. Social workers who specialize in helping kidney patients are called nephrology social workers.

Patients can also enlist the assistance of the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). The SHIP is a national program that provides free counseling and assistance to Medicare beneficiaries on a wide range of Medicare and supplemental insurance matters. Patients can find a state program by visiting shipnpr.shiptalk.org/shipprofile.aspx click to view disclaimer page.

Medicarecms logo

To qualify for Medicare on the basis of kidney failure, a person must require regular dialysis or have had a Medicare-covered kidney transplant and must have paid into Social Security through an employer-or be the child or spouse of someone who has or have worked under the Railroad Retirement Board, or as a government employee-or be the child or spouse of someone who has or already be receiving Social Security, Railroad Retirement, or Office of Personnel Management benefits.

The Original Medicare Plan has two parts: Part A is hospital insurance, and Part B is medical insurance. Part B covers most outpatient services, including kidney dialysis, doctors’ services, outpatient hospital services, and many other health services and supplies. While Part A has no premiums, most Part B services require premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance.

Some people who are not eligible for Medicare because they have not worked at a job that pays into Social Security may still be eligible to buy Medicare coverage by paying premiums for Part A.

For more information check with the NKUDIC (link posted above)

935503_10201217871274032_357839664_nJay Robare is a friend and a member of my Facebook group Organ Transplant Initiative.  He is the talent behind the design of the OTI logo.  Jay is legally blind and has been on the kidney transplant list for about four years.  He wrote this about two years ago when he lived in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  He is now a resident of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Here’s Jay’s story….he’s still waiting.

The Jay Robare Story

Waiting for a Kidney

By the time that I was approved for Medicare, I had gone through all my savings and my limited insurance coverage. I had to quit working because my endurance was gone and because I was not working, I could not afford my apartment anymore and I had to start living with others that helped me out. I lost all my furniture and most of my art equipment.

I finally got disability insurance and was qualified for Medicare but not Medicaid since I was making too much money from disability; I got enough to pay rent and had some money for paper products, which costs a lot. I have to dry my hands on paper towels to stay sterile.

I was blessed with $200 in food stamps last year but that has been decreased too; I am out of food by the third week of the month. I keep asking for rides to the various food banks but people are too busy. I am not the only one going through this; most people just can’t understand the magnitude of what we are going through in our lives and in our bodies. I know everyone is having problems for I hear that all the time but when I got sick and started working to get on the waiting list, all my doctors and nurses treated me like I was given a special gift which it is…the gift of life but many people would rather worry about their financial or relationship problem that they will outlive. We won’t outlive our problems, they are literally killing us.

****Editors note.  (When Jay lived in fort Lauderdale he was on Peritoneal Dialyisis…he is no longer but I included it because patient should know about it.)

I didn’t even talk about having to do dialysis every night. The type of dialysis that I do is called Peritoneal Dialysis where I store 2,500 milliliters of sugar saline solution for 2 and a half hour cycles 4 times which is all carbohydrates. I have gained 30 Lbs and I look very well fed; my fried Dirk said I looked like I had a beer belly…my last beer was a Heineken last Christmas. One nice thing about PD instead of hemo dialysis is that I have no liquid restraints. On hemo, I could only have 60 Oz a day or I would risk cramping and THAT was a bitch. Cramps formed in muscles that I thought I never had and the pain was so bad it made me yell out for Jesus…made my tech laugh at me.

Speaking of techs, I had clowns that would not listen to me and do the treatment their own way ending up hurting me. For you on Hemo, THIS IS YOUR TREATMENT AND YOUR BODY, don’t take any crap from these people; make sure that your nurse knows and the director knows that you do not want this person touching you again. Another thing that I like about PD is that it is robbing my body of potassium and this lets me eat things that hemo would never let me eat like bananas, mashed potatoes, spinach, hummus, vegetables and fruits. I do have to take something called a binder every time that I eat something. This medicine absorbs all the phosphorus in the food. The binder can be nasty at times, it is very dry and tastes like I am eating chalk. The chalk does a good job but sometimes it is difficult to take. The meds are a chewable but I think they are coming out with a powder soon.

Another med that I have to take because of PD and a bad parathyroid, caused by ESKD is a drug called Zemplar and Sensipar. Both keep my calcium land my PTH levels down. The only problem is that Sensipar has made me nauseous for the last 4 years; I have been throwing up every time I took this drug for 7-8 months. I guess my body has had enough. The doctors, dietitians and I have been playing games for years. I have finally decided to have a perthyroidectomy. After this surgery, I will need to start taking calcium supplements, including eating more pizza and lasagna…LOL I

I get extremely tired sometimes during the day from either walking to the bus stop and going to Publix to get some noodles or walking from the bus stop to my Davita dialysis clinic to get labs done every Monday or Tuesday; I need to send a vile of blood to my transplant hospital every week so they can keep an eye on my health and changes in my DNA.

*** Editors Note (Jay is now living in Philadelphia and is on hemodialysis which limits his liquid intake.  He is desperately trying to find a living donor.  This journey has been very hard on Jay yet somehow he manages to keep his spirits up.

The Kidney Transplant

kidneysEveryone has two kidneys, each the size of a fist and they have a very important job to do. They filter waste and remove extra water from your blood to make urine.  But…there’s more.  Your kidneys also control your blood pressure and make hormones that your body needs to stay healthy. 

During a kidney transplant

Kidney transplants are performed with general anesthesia, so you’re not aware during the procedure. The surgical team monitors your heart rate, blood pressure and blood oxygen level throughout the procedure.

During the surgery:

  • The surgeon makes an incision and places the new kidnKidney transplantey in your lower abdomen. Unless your own kidneys are causing complications such as high blood pressure or infection, they are left in place.
  • The blood vessels of the new kidney are attached to blood vessels in the lower part of your abdomen, just above one of your legs.
  • The new kidney’s ureter — the tube that links the kidney to the bladder — is connected to your bladder.

Kidney transplant surgery usually lasts about three to four hours.

After a kidney transplant

After your kidney transplant, you can expect to:

  1. Spend several days to a week in the hospital. Doctors and nurses monitor your condition in the hospital’s transplant recovery area to watch for signs of complications. Your new kidney will make urine like your own kidneys did when they were healthy. Often this starts immediately. In other cases it takes several days. Expect soreness or pain around the incision site while you’re healing.
  2. Have frequent checkups as you continue recovering. After you leave the hospital, close monitoring is necessary for a few weeks. Your transplant team will develop a checkup schedule for you. During this time, if you live in another town, you may need to make arrangements to stay close to the transplant center.
  3. Take medications the rest of your life. You’ll take a number of medications after your kidney transplant. Drugs called immunosuppressants help keep your immune system from attacking your new kidney. Additional drugs help reduce the risk of other complications, such as infection, after your transplant.]

http://www.mayoclinic.org/kidney-transplant/kidney-transplant-procedure.html

The Future

What does the future hold?  It is easy to speculate about what the future holds and absolutely impossible to be accurate.  We just don’t know.  Is there promise? Yes! There are many promising developments taking place in laboratories around the world every day.  We won’t go in to all of them because if history is any indicator most of those experiments will fail.  There are some, though, that hold some promise at least for now…like this one.

Intravenous Kidney Cell Transplant Experiments Raise Hope for Future Human Kidney Failure Treatments

May 31, 2012 — Indiana University School of Medicine scientists have successfully transplanted primary kidney cells intravenously to treat renal failure in rats, pointing the way to a possible future alternative to kidney transplants and expensive dialysis treatments in humans.

The researchers, Katherine J. Kelly, M.D., associate professor of medicine, and Jesus Dominguez, M.D., professor of medicine, genetically modified the cells in the laboratory to produce a protein — called SAA — that plays an important role in renal cell growth, embryonic kidney development and kidney regeneration after an injury. Modified cells found their way to the appropriate locations of the damaged kidneys, resulting in regeneration of tissue and improved function in the kidney.

The researchers’ work has been accepted for publication in the American Journal of Physiology — Renal Physiology, which published an advance online version of the paper on May 16.  You can read more here http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120531135645.htm

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Bob_Aronson at Mayo Jax tight shot 2008-01-30DJH--02Bob Aronson is a heart transplant recipient.  He got his new heart on August 21,2007 at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida where he now lives with wife Robin and their two dogs Reilly, a soft coated Wheaten, and Ziggy a Mini Schnauzer.

For some 25 years before his transplant Bob was an international communications consultant and owner of the Aronson Partnership which became the  Aronson Communications Group after the surgery.  Today he is semi retired and also assists his artist wife Robin with her Jinglers Jewelry art show business.

Prior to starting his consulting firm in the 1980s he served as the Communications Director for a Minnesota Governor;  was the first Anchor of Morning Edition on the Minnesota Public Radio Network; worked as a journalist at several Midwest broadcast facilities and from 1965 to 1974 was one of the first radio talk show hosts in the country.   

Aronson founded Bob’s Newheart and Facebook’s Organ Transplant Initiative (OTI) on November 3, 2007.  OTI is a 3,000 member transplant patient, recipient, caregiver and donor/donor family support and education group. 

Readers are welcome to Join OTI with the only requirement being that you support our mission which can be found in the “About” section of OTI.  We seek to grow our membership because by so doing will have more influence with decision makers as we pursue those issues which would most benefit our members.

Please view our music video “Dawn Anita The Gift of Life” on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYFFJoHJwHs.  This video is free to anyone who wants to use it and no permission is needed. 

Thank you for reading our Bob’s Newheart blogs and please leave a comment or contact Bob directly at bob@baronson.org.  We intend to continue to expand the number of issues we cover and the availability of information to the public.  You’ll find scores of other posts on Bob’s Newheart, just check the index for topics, click and read.

If you are an organ donor we thank you.  If not you can become one by going to www.donatelife.net it only takes a few minutes.  Then, tell your family what you have done so there is no confusion later.

 

Are Profits More Important Than Cures?


By Bob Aronson

A Treatment for Almost Everything but Few Vaccines & Even Fewer Cures — Why?

Fair and balanced journalism is a very nice catch phrase but the stated goal is more than illusive, it is almost non-existent and that’s because there are never just two sides to a story.  There are often several sides so no matter how hard a reporter might try to be objective, there is no way you can cover every angle.  I do not pretend that this post is the endeavor of an investigative journalist, nor do I contend that this is an objective report.  What I offer here represents some observations and a few links to help illuminate the information.  I hope you find it useful.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average life expectancy at the beginning of the 20th century was just over 47 years. A century later, that number had increased to nearly 78 years, due largely to the development of vaccinations and other treatments for deadly diseases.  We are living longer because medical science has provided us with treatments, medications, devices and surgeries that cure little but keep most threatening diseases at bay…and often at a phenomenal cost.

As a communications consultant specializing in healthcare I have worked with several pharmaceutical companies.  I know many researchers and I am aware of the dedication they bring to their jobs and to providing help to patients.  I know, too, how expensive it is to develop new drugs and all too often I have seen those efforts fail resulting in the loss of millions of hard-earned investor dollars.  In short, I have at least a passing acquaintance with the pharmaceutical industry and the financial risks they take to bring new drugs, treatments, procedures and devices to the marketplace.

At the same time I also understand the desire and the necessity to be profitable.  Without profitability no business can survive.  It is only fair to point out that the pharmaceutical industry (Big Pharma) has been incredibly profitable, despite the investments and even the losses.

Here is the list of the five biggest pharmaceutical companies based on 2010 revenues, in billions of dollars.

1.Pfizer                                                        $58,523,
Read the rest of this entry

Hepatitis C — No One is Immune Everyone is Affected


More people in the United States now die from Hepatitis C each year than from AIDS  according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.   More than 3.2 million Americans are currently infected with Hepatitis C and the really bad news is that most people who have it don’t’ know it.

In coming days I will publish more information and heart wrenching stories about Hep C and the patients it affects, the lives it wrecks and what it costs our society in both human lives and dollars…it is astounding.

Hep C is a disease of the liver that society likes to keep in the shadows because of some of the ways in which it is contracted, but we cannot begin to deal with a disease if it is kept secret and treated as though it was sinful and dirty.  It isn’t.  The people aren’t and they need our help and our compassion.

Hepatitis C can be treated and there are some exciting possibilities on the horizon but now there is no available cure,  not even a liver transplant is a cure because Hepatitis C is systemic.

To get us started on the road to understanding please view this video.  It says more in a few minutes than anything I can write at this moment.  Please share the video with others and then watch this space for more.  I fully intend to say a lot more on the subject of this disease that affects so many of my friends.

Thank you  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J4TCo-qVoKk

Bob Aronson of Bob’s Newheart is a 2007 heart transplant recipient, the founder of Facebook’s nearly 2,500 member Organ Transplant Initiative and the author of most of these donation/transplantation blogs.

You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.

Please view our video “Thank You From the Bottom of my Donor’s heart” on http://www.organti.org This video was produced to promote organ donation so it is free and no permission is needed for its use.

If you want to spread the word personally about organ donation, we have another PowerPoint slide show for your use free and without permission. Just go to http://www.organti.org and click on “Life Pass It On” on the left side of the screen and then just follow the directions. This is NOT a stand-alone show; it needs a presenter but is professionally produced and factually sound. If you decide to use the show I will send you a free copy of my e-book, “How to Get a Standing “O” that will help you with presentation skills. Just write to bob@baronson.org and usually you will get a copy the same day.

Also…there is more information on this blog site about other donation/transplantation issues. Additionally we would love to have you join our Facebook group, Organ Transplant Initiative The more members we get the greater our clout with decision makers.

Bristol Myers /Gilead Science — Profits Ahead of Life


I have a good news, bad news story to report today.  It is about a combination of life saving drugs that may never see the light of day because the two companies that make them can’t or won’t cooperate with one another.  One woman, Margaret Dudley of San Antonio Texas is doing something about it.  More about her, later.

This is about a combination of drugs from Bristol Myers Squib and Gilead Science that could be a cure for Hepatitis C which affects nearly 200 million people worldwide.  It is a viral infection that can lead to liver failure and death.  End-stage liver disease (cirrhosis) due to chronic hepatitis C has become the leading indication for liver transplantation in the United States.

First the good news, this really could be a cure.   A combination of Gilead’s GS-7977 and Daclatasvir from Bristol Myers Squib shows great promise as a cure according to some limited studies.  These drugs are pretty effective on their own but apparently when combined they could be a cure…yes cure.  I know, cure is pretty strong language in the medical world but it is the medical world that is using the term.

Now the bad news.  The two companies are not cooperating with one another, they can’t seem to agree on anything other than to disagree and in the meantime people are getting sicker and dying.  This is the classic battle over which company will make the most money when the two drugs are combined.

Here’s an Excerpt-The Street

Gilead, Bristol Put Profits Ahead of Best Care for Hep C Patients

“The new Hep C therapy at issue here combines Bristol’s Daclatasvir with Gilead’s GS-7977. Each is a single pill administered once a day. The results from this new therapy are nothing short of spectacular — an early cure rate of 100% for genotype 1 patients and 91% of genotype 2/3 patients, according to data from a mid-stage study announced Thursday at the European Association for the Study of Liver Disease (EASL) meeting.

A 100% cure rate for genotype 1 patients! Obviously, results can’t get better than that.

You’d think there’d be a rush to move the combination regimen of Daclatasvir and GS-7977 into a larger, confirmatory phase III trial, but you’d be mistaken. Amazingly, this most promising new treatment for hepatitis C patients may actually be discontinued because Bristol and Gilead can’t work together.

Good luck understanding why Bristol and Gilead can’t come together to help Hep C patients. The companies can’t even agree on the fact that the two companies are not agreeing”.

This is an incredibly important story and one that needs wide circulation in hopes of forcing these two companies to cooperate for the sake of saving lives instead of who can provide the greatest return on investment.  As mentioned earlier, Hep C affects about 200 million people worldwide.

Typically, to become infected with hepatitis C virus, the blood of an infected person enters the body of someone who is not infected. The most common way involves sharing needles or other equipment used to inject drugs. This kind of Hepatitis C infection is in the news now because an infected healthcare worker at a hospital in New Hampshire used needles on himself then left them for others to use.  Thousands may have been infected as a result and that investigation continues.

It is also possible, but less likely to become infected with shared use of personal care items such as toothbrushes and razors. Infection is also possible through sexual contact. Hepatitis C is not spread by casual contact, kissing, coughing, sneezing, sharing utensils, or breastfeeding.

Other people with greater risk of infection include:

  • People with tattoos or body piercing done with non-sterile equipment.
  • People who received an organ transplant or blood transfusion before July 1992.
  • People with clotting problems who took blood products prior to 1987.
  • People receiving hemodialysis or who have a history of hemodialysis for kidney failure.
  • People with HIV infection.

Since July 1992, all blood and organ donations in the U.S. are screened for the hepatitis C virus. According to the CDC, the number of hepatitis C infections declined by 90% from 1994 to 2006, partially as a result of this.

A diagnosis of hepatitis C infection doesn’t necessarily mean you need treatment. If you have only slight liver abnormalities, you may not need treatment, because your risk of future liver problems is very low. Your doctor may recommend follow-up blood tests to monitor for liver problems.

Hep C symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Upset stomach and diminished appetite
  • Joint and muscle pain

Also, patients may experience symptoms related to liver cirrhosis, such as:

  • Jaundice, which is a yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • Urine being a dark yellow color
  • An increased tendency to bleed or bruise

Treatment of chronic hepatitis C varies depending on the individual. A person with chronic hepatitis C may not need or benefit from treatment. Some people may not be able to tolerate treatment because of side effects.

Currently, the FDA has approved the following treatments for hepatitis C:

  • Pegylated interferon alfa-2a
  • Pegylated interferon alfa-2b
  • Ribavirin
  • Standard interferon alfa
  • Incivek
  • Victrelis

Common side effects of interferons include fatigue, muscle pain, headache, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and depression, and changes to your blood cell counts. Side effects of ribavirin include anemia, skin rash, fatigue, and nose/sinus congestion so a new treatment with minimal side effects and greater effectiveness would be cheered wildly.

Liver transplant
if your liver has been severely damaged, a liver transplant may be an option. During a liver transplant, the surgeon removes your damaged liver and replaces it with a healthy liver. Most transplanted livers come from deceased donors, though a small number come from living donors who donate a portion of their livers.

For people with hepatitis C infection, a liver transplant is not a cure. Treatment with antiviral medications usually continues after a liver transplant, since hepatitis C infection is likely to recur in the new liver.

Now to our hero 61 year old Margaret Dudley of San Antonio, Texas.  Margaret thinks this situation is intolerable and she has launched a petition drive to encourage the two companies to work together to save lives.

Last fall, she was tested for hepatitis C she believes she contracted from some earlier tattoos.  “I had no idea,” Dudley said. “I had no reason to think it would come back positive, but it did.”

Then she found out about Bristol Myers Squib and Gilead.  “That’s basically what me and millions of others have been waiting for,” Dudley commented.  We’re asking these companies put best patient health before profits.”

She has several thousand on her online petition so far and says public pressure may spark the pharmaceutical companies to keep going with clinical trials.  Dudley’s goal is to gather 100,000 signatures by July 28, 2012, which is World Hepatitis Day.  We encourage you to sign the petition.  Just go to: http://tinyurl.com/cow2uwt  We just can’t let profitability trump human life.

Some of the information in this blog was drawn from the following sources.

http://www.hcvadvocate.org/hcsp/articles/Shaw-Stiffel-1.html

http://tinyurl.com/d55az86

http://www.webmd.com/hepatitis/hepc-guide/chronic-hepatitis-c

Bob Aronson of Bob’s Newheart is a 2007 heart transplant recipient, the founder of Facebook’s nearly 2,500 member Organ Transplant Initiative and the author of most of these donation/transplantation blogs.

You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.

Please view our video “Thank You From the Bottom of my Donor’s heart” on http://www.organti.org This video was produced to promote organ donation so it is free and no permission is needed for its use.

If you want to spread the word personally about organ donation, we have another PowerPoint slide show for your use free and without permission. Just go to http://www.organti.org and click on “Life Pass It On” on the left side of the screen and then just follow the directions. This is NOT a stand-alone show, it needs a presenter but is professionally produced and factually sound. If you decide to use the show I will send you a free copy of my e-book, “How to Get a Standing “O” that will help you with presentation skills. Just write to bob@baronson.org and usually you will get a copy the same day.

Also…there is more information on this blog site about other donation/transplantation issues. Additionally we would love to have you join our Facebook group, Organ Transplant Initiative The more members we get the greater our clout with decision makers.

 

You Could Die Today! Will You Bury Your Organs Or Donate Them?


What if tomorrow or even today was your last day to be alive?  It’s possible.  No one knows when their time will come.  We start dying upon birth and could die young from a variety of medical or accidental causes. That’s why it is so important to become an organ donor now, right now.  Just go to www.donatelife.net and do it. 

There are three reasons you should become an organ donor right now:

  1. You could die today or tomorrow and if you are not a donor your organs could be buried with you.  It happens 20,000 times a year in the U.S. 
  2. You could find out that you or a loved one needs a transplant
  3. You are a compassionate human being who wants to save lives and you understand the urgency.

My blogs are about living, about saving lives and about how the living can help do that but sometimes a writer has to provide some shock value in order to get people’s attention.  So here’s the shock.  You should become an organ donor soon because you could die soon, very soon. Stand by…there’s more shock to come.

You’ve all heard the numbers 114,000 people on the organ transplant waiting list with only 28,000 transplants done each year. Estimates indicate about 20 people die every day while waiting for organs.  Becoming an organ donor is an urgent issue but for most potential donors it is only urgent for the would-be recipient but consider this… you or a loved one could be the next patient in line waiting for an organ transplant. 

While 9 out of 10 Americans support organ donation, only 38% of US driver’s license or ID card holders are registered as organ donors, according to the 2009 Organ Donor Report Card. Overall, only 1 in 3.75 people in the US are registered organ donors. And in 2008, for the first time in at least 20 years, the number of both living and deceased donors declined over the previous year, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN).

None of us expect to die any time soon so we approach organ donation with a, “What’s the rush” attitude.  “They can’t take my organs until I die and I’m going to be around for a while so I’ll become a donor when I get around to it.”  But…what if you die before you get around to it?  Here are some startling odds.

All figures below are for U.S. residents.as of 2005, the latest year this data was available.

Your chance of dying of any of the following                                                   Lifetime Odds

Heart Disease                                                                                                        1-in-5

Cancer                                                                                                                    1-in-7

Stroke                                                                                                                     1-in-23

Accidental Injury                                                                                                   1-in-36

Motor Vehicle Accident*                                                                                      1-in-100

Intentional Self-harm (suicide)                                                                            1-in-121

Falling Down                                                                                                         1-in-246

Assault by Firearm                                                                                               1-in-325

Fire or Smoke                                                                                                        1-in-1,116

Natural Forces (heat, cold, storms, quakes, etc.)                                             1-in-3,357

Electrocution*                                                                                                       1-in-5,000

Drowning                                                                                                               1-in-8,942

Air Travel Accident*                                                                                           1-in-20,000

 SOURCES: National Center for Health Statistics, CDC; American Cancer Society; National Safety Council; International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies; World Health Organization; USGS; Clark Chapman, SwRI; David Morrison, NASA; Michael Paine, Planetary Society Australian Volunteers

 Heart disease, Cancer, Stroke and Accidents claim the most people every year.  If you really believe in organ donation becoming a donor right now is the only logical thing to do.                                                                                                              

I hope everyone who reads this blog lives for a very, very long time but I also hope you recognize that there is no time to spare in becoming an organ donor.  My donor was only 30 years old when he died.  I’m sure he expected to live a lot longer than that but fate is unpredictable so why not arrange now to save some lives.  If you wait you could not only lose your own life but cause others to die because your organs were buried with You.                                                                                               

It is so easy to become a donor.  You can do it by going to www.donatelife.net , on Facebook or you can get free organ donation Apps for your cell phone, pads and computers too.  One is http://www.appbrain.com/app/donor-register/com.sam.donorregister  I understand that Blackberry and I-phone have similar apps.

Please understand the urgency. Please go to your computer right now and sign up and then be sure to tell your family, your physician and your faith leader if you have one and…when you renew your driver’s license make sure you check the organ donor designation.

Bob Aronson of Bob’s Newheart  is a 2007 heart transplant recipient, the founder of Facebook’s 1800 member Organ Transplant Initiative and the author of most of these donation/transplantation blogs. 

You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.

Please view our video “Thank You From the Bottom of my Donor’s heart” on http://www.organti.org This video was produced to promote organ donation so it is free and no permission is needed for its use.

If you want to spread the word personally about organ donation, we have another PowerPoint slide show for your use free and without permission. Just go to http://www.organti.org and click on “Life Pass It On” on the left side of the screen and then just follow the directions. This is NOT a stand-alone show, it needs a presenter but is professionally produced and factually sound.  If you decide to use the show I will send you a free copy of my e-book, “How to Get a Standing “O” that will help you with presentation skills.  Just write to bob@baronson.org and usually you will get a copy the same day.

Also…there is more information on this blog site about other donation/transplantation issues. Additionally we would love to have you join our Facebook group, Organ Transplant Initiative The more members we get the greater our clout with decision makers.

Yes, Brain Death Means You Are Really Dead!


Are brain dead patients really dead?  That’s the question many people are asking because of stories circulated by irresponsible journalists, TV shows and movies who seek sensational plots and people who just refuse to acknowledge the facts.

The simple answer to this question is, “Absolutely.  If you’ve been declared brain dead by a qualified team of experts in a hospital setting then you are dead.  The New York Organ Donor Network put it best, “There are more tests to establish death done on potential organ donors than there are on people who are not donors.”

There have been several stories circulated about how “Brain Dead” people have recovered and gone on to live normal lives. I have spent the last month looking into these stories and have determined that while one or two are unexplainable primarily because families won’t release medical information all the rest were simply not true.

I have interviewed two world famous neurologists who have written extensively about brain death and who were part of the process that developed the rules for making that determination. The protocols for determining brain death are more rigorous than for proclaiming death under normal circumstances. Every single neurologist, physician or other medical expert I’ve talked with has said the same thing, “No one recovers from brain death!” New protocols were established in 2010 to make the testing even more rigorous and they require the physician who is declaring brain death to fill out a check list to be sure every step has been completed. Again, this process is more rigorous than what is used to declare death under normal conditions.

Here’s the checklist that must be followed in order to declare brain death:
Cause of Brain Death:
________________________________________________________________
Date of Exam: ____________________________
Time of Exam: ____________________________
A. Absence of Confounding Factors: RESULTS
1. Systolic blood pressure > 90 mmHg ______________________
2. Core temperature > 36˚C ______________________
3. Negative for drug intoxication or poisoning _______________________
4. Toxicology results ______________________
5. Negative for neuromuscular blocking agents ______________________
B. Cranial Nerve Reflexes and Responses:
1. No spontaneous muscular movements ______________________
2. Pupils lightfixed
_______________________
3. Absent corneal reflexes ______________________
4. Unresponsiveness to intensely painful ______________________
stimuli, e.g. supraorbital pressure
5. Absent response to upper and lower ______________________
airway stimulations, e.g. pharyngeal and
endotracheal suctioning
6. Absent ocular response to head turning ______________________
(no eye movement)
7. Absent ocular response to irrigation of the ears ______________________
with 100 mls. of ice water (no eye movement)
8. Apnea PaCo2>60 mmHg ______________________
a. PaCo2 at end of apnea test
b. PaO2 at end of apnea test
C. Medical Record Documentation of the above Examination
D. Comments
__________________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________
________________________________
Certification of Death
Having considered the above findings, we hereby certify the death of:
_____________________________________________________________________________
Physician Signature Printed Name Date/Time


There will always be naysayers and people who “know of people who recovered” but I am satisfied after considerable research that when brain death is declared it is final.

Brain death is never declared by anyone with any connection to organ recovery and transplantation. The transplant team is not even aware of the patient until after brain death has been declared. The physician who declares brain death is independent of the recovery and transplantation team. Physicians who attend to patients on a regular basis are sworn to and legally committed to do everything possible to save your life. They are not part of the transplant team either and in many cases the hospitals where people are declared brain dead don’t even have transplant teams because they are not transplant centers.

To add to theevidence I have offered is this information from Stacey Gelowitz  Renal Transplant Coordinator at Alberta Health Services Edmonton, Canada Area Hospital & Health Care.  While she is in Canada the American and Canadian processes for declaring brain death are virtually identical.  Here’s what she wrote:

“At our center, we define neurological death by two criteria: irreversible loss of the capability for consciousness AND irreversible loss of all brainstem functions (including breathing). The protocol we follow for adult NDD is as follows:
Done twice by 2 physicians independently, who are not associated with transplantation
(1) Deep unresponsive coma with known cause
(2) Absence of confounding factors (eg. alcohol, tricyclic antidepressants)
(3) Temp > 34 degrees C
(4) No brainstem reflexes
a. No motor responses except spinal reflexes
b. No cough
c. No gag
d. No corneal responses bilaterally
e. No vestibulo-ocular responses bilaterally
f. No oculocephalic reflex (Doll’s eyes test; contraindicated in spinal injury)
g. No pupillary response to light bilaterally (pupils 6mm)
h. Apnea test, pH < 7.28 and PaCO2 > 20mmHg above pre-apnea test level
(5) If pt doesn’t meet all above criteria, do ancillary tests to show absence of intracranial blood flow:
a. Radionuclide cerebral blood flow study
b. Cerebral angiography
It can be hard for families to comprehend that their loved one is dead because the heart continues to beat spontaneously and the person is supported by machines so they look asleep. Important to note is that…
* No brain function remains (in contrast to coma/vegetative state).

* Heart continues to beat because of mechanical support stabilizing body, e.g. ventilators. Remember: Sinus rhythm is controlled by cells within the heart (SA/AV nodes), so as long as the heart is being perfused adequately (getting O2 via blood), it is happy to continue beating. Medulla oblongata in brain controls rate and strength of beat, but not basic rhythm).

* Blood still flowing to body organs (heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas) allowing transplantation if donor family consents, the organs are functioning adequately, and the potential donor has no serious health concerns

It is VERY IMPORTANT that the donor does not have any factors that confound the diagnosis of brain death. I think it is in these circumstances that brain death is (very rarely) wrongly diagnosed. A great website that you can refer to that touches on these ideas: http://www.braindeath.org/clinical.htm. It goes through different confounding factors and why physiologically in their presence brain death cannot be declared.

I have not seen any reports where pts recover from ‘brain death’ and it was not due to one of these confounding factors. We have gotten much better as a medical community at recognizing the suppressive effects of this list and know now not to declare brain death in the their presence. I think where patients extremely rarely slip through that can lead to wrong diagnosis of brain death is in the following two circumstances: (1) pts are on an unknown substance that is not tested for on toxicology panels and suppresses brain stem reflexes. Or, (2) a pt receives a drug in hospital (eg sedative to stop seizures or allow intubation) and the pt metabolizes the drug extremely slowly. The latter example (slow drug metabolism) is more applicable to children/babies rather than adults, but can happen in both (here is a case study from our center describing just that: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19818943). As a result, the time in which brain death is declared was extended.

People need to understand that these instances are incredibly rare. If there is any doubt that one of these confounding factors is contributing to a wrong diagnosis of brain death, another tox screen or temp etc can be done to rule out such factors. Take a look at the cases people are presenting on reversible brain death. I would bet that all fall under what is discussed above. That said, some people will still stick to their guns and not believe you no matter how much info is provided, and that’s okay too”

If anyone needs more information that I have provided here I suggest you contact a neurologist at your nearest transplant center and ask him or her.  If you still doubt the process then perhaps you should not be a donor.

 Bob Aronson is a 2007 heart transplant recipient, the founder of Facebook’s 1700 member Organ Transplant Initiative and the writer of most of these donation/transplantation blogs on Bob’s Newheart.

You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.

Please view our video “Thank You From the Bottom of my Donor’s heart” on http://www.organti.org This video was produced to promote organ donation so it is free and no permission is needed for its use.

If you want to spread the word personally about organ donation, we have a PowerPoint slide show for your use free and for use without permission. Just go to http://www.organti.org and click on “Life Pass It On” on the left side of the screen and then just follow the directions. This is NOT a stand-alone show, it needs a presenter but is professionally produced and factually sound.

Also…there is more information on this blog site about other donation/transplantation issues. Additionally we would love to have you join our Facebook group, Organ Transplant Initiative The more members we get the greater our clout with decision makers.

Journalistic Terrorism


I am a heart transplant recipient and a registered organ donor.  Today my new heart aches for the over 113,000 people on the national transplant list and their families because an irresponsible writer just told them their lives are unimportant and that they should go home and die.  I know what it’s like to be on that list.  I know firsthand the terror associated with the fact that because less than half of all Americans are organ donors some patients will die waiting.  In 2010 over 6,000 died and now the shortage of donor organs is even greater with the likelihood that the fatality list will go even higher. With the publication of a “don’t become an organ donor” column in the Wall Street Journal, the author and the paper have displayed a heartlessness I thought could not exist.  I would rather not believe that anyone would seek financial reward at the cost of human life but that’s what author Dick Terisi and Wall Street Journal owner and publisher Rupert Murdoch have done.  It is what it is – Journalistic Terrorism.

The irresponsibility of Terisi and Murdoch is going to cause a lot of people to die.  The story in question claims that physicians allow and even facilitate the death of patients in order to retrieve their organs for transplantation.  Not only is that charge wrong, it is reckless and life threatening.  The teams of people in hospitals that care for patients, however ill, are not connected nor do they report to the very specialized transplant teams in the same organization.  And – not all hospitals even have transplant capabilities.  There are 5, 754 accredited hospitals in the United States but only 242 of them are transplant centers.  Terisi makes it sound as though all hospitals are transplant centers with surgeons hovering over patients, scalpel in hand ready to retrieve organs.  That picture is not only distorted it is the product of the overactive imagination found in most fiction writers.  The problem is Terisi passes himself off as a knowledgeable reporter of actual events.  Let me be very blunt.  He knows better but lying about the process sells more books and that’s his bottom line.

His major point is that Physicians are cavalier in their approach to proclaiming brain death so that they can hurry the process of recovering organs for transplant.  Fact:  the procedure for determining death prior to recovery of organs is rigorous, thorough and as exact as medical science can make it.  My previous blog on the subject “Death by Journalism” explains the process for declaring brain death in great detail.   This story is a dramatic example of what I call “Junk” science.  He uses anecdotal evidence and off the cuff remarks of a single physician to make his point and calls it evidence.

Some readers are going to believe this nonsense and refuse to become organ donors.  Others, who are donors, may decide to reverse their decision.  In either case people will die as a result because the critical shortage of organs for transplant will become even more critical.  Terisi and Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal must be held accountable for this reckless endangerment of human life.  This time there is a cost for having a “Free” press and the cost will likely be the deaths of a good many people…just so an author can sell some books and a publisher can sell a few more newspapers. Shame on them!

If you want the facts about organ donation/transplantation and associated issues here are some links.

* Fact sheet.  Myths about organ donation (this link directly addresses the subject of care of dying patients)  http://tinyurl.com/7xngpet

* 25 facts about donation/transplantation National Kidney Foundation http://tinyurl.com/8o6uq2

* How the transplant system workshttp://tinyurl.com/7rccn3u

* UNOS facts about Transplantation in the U.S.  http://tinyurl.com/7bkmaft

* Transplant Recipients International Organization (TRIO) General information http://www.trioweb.org/

You can also read more about a wide variety of donation/transplantation issues on my blog Bob’s Newheart on WordPress www.bobsnewheart.wordpress.com

Bottom line.  We can’t stop people like Terisi and Murdoch from publishing lies and distortions but we can mitigate their effect by speaking up and letting the truth be known that organ donation threatens no one and saves thousands of lives.

Every organ donor can either save or enhance the lives of up to 60 people.  That’s a fact!  Tell the story and tell it often.  I’m here to write this piece because of an unselfish organ donor.  I will not let his action or his character be defiled because of the greed of a writer and publisher – I hope you will join me in honoring all donors and their families by spreading the word that organ donation saves lives.

Lodge your protest at Wall Street Journal Contact:
Online: onlinejournal@wsj.com
1-800-JOURNAL (1-800-568-7625)
Outside the U.S.:1-609-514-0870
Monday – Friday: 7am to 10pm ET
Saturday: 8am to 3pm ET

You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.

 Please view our video “Thank You From the Bottom of my Donor’s heart” on http://www.organti.org This video was produced to promote organ donation so it is free and no permission is needed for its use.

 Also…there is more information on this blog site about other donation/transplantation issues. Additionally we would love to have you join our Facebook group, Organ Transplant Initiative The more members we get the greater our clout with decision makers.

 

Death by Journalism


On behalf of the over 1600 members of Facebook’s Organ Transplant Initiative and my Blog, Bob’s Newheart on WordPress, I am lodging a very strong objection to Dick Terisi’s inaccurate and life-endangering  column in the Wall Street Journal,  “What You Lose When You Sign that Donor Card.”  Not only should Mr. Terisi retract his irresponsible words he should also issue an immediate public apology to everyone on the national transplant list and their families.

Recently a hack journalist, Dick Terisi, published a column in the Wall Street Journal suggesting that American physicians were killing patients in order to extract their organs for transplant.  This irresponsible attack on a system that has saved thousands of lives and will save thousands more is worse than bad journalism it can only be termed what it is – death  by journalism, because there will be people who will refuse to become organ donors as a result.

I am a heart transplant recipient who knows the desperation felt by being on “the list.”  I can only imagine the emotional trauma Mr.Terisi caused with his reckless disregard for truth and lack of compassion for the dying and the loved ones who care for them.  He has also insulted the professional and personal integrity of every medical professional in the nation, but I’ll not take up their defense.  I’m sure they will rise to the occasion.

There are over 113,000 people on the aforementioned list but fewer than 30,000 transplants are done each year in the United States because of the shortage of organs.  That means that thousands die while waiting.  Mr. Terisi’s inaccurate portrayal of the donation system is based on “junk” science, anecdotal information and an “off the cuff” remark by a single physician.  It ensures that even more people will die because some readers will believe his distortions and either not become organ and tissue donors or change their existing designation to non-donor.

I know that others in the transplant community are preparing point by point responses to Terisi’s ravings so I’ll just touch on one – brain death. He told a simple lie so here’s the simple truth.

According to the American Academy of Neurology, brain death is defined as the irreversible loss of function of the brain, including the brain stem. The most common causes of brain death in adults are traumatic brain injury and subarachnoid hemorrhage (a form of stroke)   The guidelines for determining brain death were written by a team of experts lead by  Eelco F. Wijdicks, M.D., Ph.D. from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.  Dr.  Wijdicks is considered the preeminent expert on brain death in the world – and he says, “The brain death diagnosis can be made only after a comprehensive clinical evaluation that often involves more than 25 separate assessments.”  These assessments must be done by highly qualified physicians.

OK…I’ve given you the simple truth now here’s a detailed  explanation as printed in Critical Care Nurse which is a far cry from the simple almost cavalier approach suggested by non-physician, non-medical expert, non-donor and self proclaimed, “heartless, selfish bastard” Dick Terisi.  http://ccn.aacnjournals.org/content/24/5/50.full

“Current standards for making a diagnosis of brain death require (1) identification of the suspected cause of the coma, (2) determination that the coma is irreversible, (3) performance of a clinical examination, and (4) interpretation of appropriate neurodiagnostic and laboratory tests.1 Identification of the cause of coma is based on the patient’s history and the results of neurodiagnostic tests such as computed tomographic scans. Common causes of brain death detected on computed tomographic scans include brain masses with or without herniation and edema.1 In determining the cause of the coma, conditions that could confound the clinical assessment must also be ruled out, such as hypothermia, hypotension, severe acid-base abnormalities, drug or alcohol intoxication, sedation, and neuromuscular blockade.

The next step in diagnosing brain death is performing a directed, clinical examination. According to the American Academy of Neurology,2 each criterion of the clinical examination should be satisfied on 2 separate occasions. The length of time between examinations has not been defined and varies depending on the cause of the coma. The American Academy of Neurology2 has suggested that a 6-hour interval between examinations is reasonable; others1 have recommended a period of up to 48 hours in instances in which unknown toxins may be responsible for the coma. In addition, 2 conditions must be met before the clinical examination is conducted: the patient’s blood pressure should be greater than 90 mm Hg, and the patient’s body temperature should be greater than 32°C (90°F).

The clinical examination includes an evaluation of overall responsiveness, brain-stem reflexes, and apnea testing. The patient should be deeply comatose, with no response to painful or verbal stimuli, including decorticate or decerebrate posturing. He or she should also have no spontaneous movement, including shivering, seizures, or respiratory movement. The single exception is movement resulting from spinal reflexes. The assessment of responsiveness and movement requires that the effects of all neuromuscular blocking agents and sedatives have worn off completely.”

Mr. Terisi’s column is bad enough but the Wall Street Journal cannot be absolved of blame.  Terisi would have had a far smaller audience and a minimized effect had the Wall Street Journal used sound journalistic judgment and trashed this extremely shoddy piece of journalism.  WSJ ought to join Terisi in the public apology I called for earlier but I expect neither to do so because that takes “class” and integrity — commodities which neither seem to possess.

Lodge your protest at Wall Street Journal Contact:
Online: onlinejournal@wsj.com
1-800-JOURNAL (1-800-568-7625)
Outside the U.S.:1-609-514-0870
Monday – Friday: 7am to 10pm ET
Saturday: 8am to 3pm ET

You may comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org. And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors. There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance. If you convince one person to be an organ and tissue donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives. Some of those lives may be people you know and love.
Please view our video “Thank You From the Bottom of my Donor’s heart” on http://www.organti.org This video was produced to promote organ donation so it is free and no permission is needed for its use.
Also…there is more information on this blog site about other donation/transplantation issues. Additionally we would love to have you join our Facebook group, Organ Transplant Initiative The more members we get the greater our clout with decision makers.

Bob Aronson

Heart Transplant recipient

Jacksonville, Florida

60% of People Who Smoke Will Die From it — But You Can Quit!


Besides causing cancer and any one of a number of other health problems, smoking can destroy organs like the heart and lungs and can seriously damage or destroy others. 

There are about 110,000 people in the U.S. waiting for organ transplants and there are not enough donor organs, so each year thousands of our loved ones, friends and neighbors die waiting. The number of organ donors is not increasing fast enough to end the shortage any time soon so one way of dealing with the crisis is to prevent the need for organ transplants.  One way to do that is to quit damaging our organs by quitting smoking. 

From time to time I will be publishing blogs from guest writers.  The following post was written by Dr. Michael Burke, Ed.D, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine and Program Coordinator at the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center.  Dr. Burke is a highly respected expert in the field of tobacco addiction and smoking cessation. 

There is nothing that is healthier for a person who smokes than to stop. Within a short time after one stops smoking, lung function and circulation improve, risk of heart attack and stroke diminish, and the likelihood of acquiring 14 different cancers begins to drop. 

Symptoms from illnesses as different as diabetes, sleep apnea, and Crohn’s disease get better after a person stops smoking.  Stopping before surgery significantly improves surgical outcomes through less infection, better wound healing and bone mending.  Stopping smoking leads to less skin wrinkles and better erectile function, and the list goes on and on. Although people usually underestimate how dangerous smoking is, nearly everybody knows that it is unhealthy.  However, about 1 in 5 Americans continue to smoke, and each day in the US, as many people die from smoking as three fully loaded 747’s crashing.   Worldwide 100 million people died from smoking in the 20th century.  Predictions are that one billion people will die from smoking tobacco this century.  So why doesn’t everyone quit? 

One reason is that cigarettes are quite addicting.   A cigarette delivers nicotine to the brain more quickly than a hypodermic needle.  It is probably the best drug delivery device ever created by man.  It delivers volatile high dose nicotine that, for some people, causes physical changes to a part of the brain that is responsible for pleasure, attention and stress.  I say ‘for some people’.

Smoking affects people differently.  Stopping smoking is actually physically harder for some people than it is for others.  The differences are in large part due to genetics. To shed light on these genetic differences a group at the Mayo Clinic is, oddly enough, studying Zebra fish. http://discoverysedge.mayo.edu/zebrafish-genetics/ Dr. Steve Ekker’s group has discovered two genes that make the fish more reactive to nicotine.  If exposed to nicotine when in the larvae stage Zebra fish bred to have these two specific genes will become sensitized to the nicotine.   Later in life they will move and dart more quickly in the water when nicotine is added to the tank.  However, if these genes are ‘knocked out’ the fish won’t become sensitized to nicotine and then later will not react when exposed to nicotine.   It is wonderful to have a geneticist with a sense of humor.  Dr. Ekker’s group named the nicotine activating genes Humphrey Bogart and Bette Davis after those two Hollywood stars whose style of smoking became iconic.

Although it is a more complex story in human beings, some people have Humphrey Bogart and Bette Davis genes.  These people experience a heightened reward from cigarettes when they first start smoking and more intense craving and withdrawal when they try to stop.  Too often these people feel ashamed, think that they just have less willpower, or think that they just don’t want to stop badly enough. Instead these folks can stop, they just need more tools and ammunition.

I once treated a woman, a nurse, from Bayonne NJ.  She was clearly a strong lady.  My dad would have admirably described her as a ‘tough old broad’.  “People tell me I’m weak, that I should just quit smoking” she said “But, when I go half a day without a cigarette, I’m on my knees in tears I just feel so awful”.  “I’m not weak” she went on.  “I left a bad man, raised three kids, worked sometimes two jobs, bought my own home, and sent all three kids to college.  I’m not weak! What is it about this that is so hard?” she asked me.  She was most likely genetically set to have a more difficult time stopping, and she needed treatment to match that extra difficulty.   We provided treatment and one year later she was still tobacco free.

Many people try and stop ‘cold-turkey’.  That’s good if it works.  However, less than 5% of the people who use this method are successful at six months.  Counseling and medications have been proven to significantly increase the chances of successfully stopping smoking.  You can learn more about how counseling works by viewing the short video at this link. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5EDaA26unVw  

Your health care provider may provide counseling or they may have a Tobacco Treatment Specialist in the office or local area.  Professional help is also available through a telephone Quit line.  Every state in the US, and province in Canada have one that can be accessed through calling 1800 QUIT NOW.   One online resource that many people find helpful is www.becomeanex.org.  Mayo Clinic also has a Residential Treatment Program – an 8 day program that works for people who have ‘tried everything’.  http://ndc.mayo.edu

There are seven ‘first line’ medications that have been proven to be safe and effective for helping people stop smoking.  Five are nicotine replacement products and two are pills available by prescription: varenicline (Chantix) and bupropion (Zyban).  

There is too much confusion about nicotine replacement.  Nicotine replacement medications have saved many lives and can save many more. Nicotine is not the ingredient in cigarettes that causes health problems.  Smoking health problems are caused by 4,000 other chemicals that people ingest when they smoke.  Some of these chemicals are natural to tobacco others are added by the tobacco industry.  Nicotine replacement helps manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms safely, while eliminating exposure to the awful toxins in tobacco.  We encourage people to take enough of these medicines for long enough to stop smoking.

People who smoke can also talk to their health care provider about two other medications varenicline and bupropion.  These medications are proven to help people safely stop smoking.  Like most medications, there are some potential side effects and you should talk to your health care provider before taking these medications.   But remember, if the tobacco industry had to list the side effects from smoking, it would probably fill a telephone book.  Cigarettes are the only product that will kill over 60% of the people who use it in the way it is intended.   Stopping smoking, by any means necessary, is the healthy choice.

Please comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org.  And – spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors.  On-line registration can be done at http://www.donatelife.net/index.php  Whenever you can, help people formally register.  There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance.  If you convince one person to be a donor you may save or positively affect over 50 lives.  Some of those lives may be people you know and love.  

You are also invited to join Organ Transplantation Initiative (OTI) http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=152655364765710 a group dedicated to providing help and information to donors, donor families, transplant patients and families, caregivers and all other interested parties.  Your participation is important if we are to influence decision makers to support efforts to increase organ donation and support organ regeneration, replacement and research efforts. 

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