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of Americans are waiting for kidney donations that could make the
difference between life and death. There are lots of reasons why so many
of them have to keep waiting such as too few donors or problems finding
For 66-year-old Christine Hall, it was something different.
"I've never had time to volunteer for anything,"
says Hall. "I've never been in a position to write a check for something
I believe in, but this was something I could do."
Hall wanted to donate a kidney to a total
stranger. She says she didn't have any big reasons for doing so. She
just had a desire to give back.
"This was my chance to make a difference and do something for somebody," says Hall.
But even though she had the will, she didn't have
the weigh. She weighed too much. Doctors told her she was too fat to
donate, a problem affecting millions of Americans and potential organ
"It's really a national epidemic," says Dr.
Matthew Cooper, director of kidney transplantation at Medstar Georgetown
University Hospital. He says they don't keep track of how many donors
are obese, but he's being forced to turn more and more people away
because of their weight.
"One of the things that we have learned is that obesity in organ donors is quite dangerous," says Dr. Cooper.
That's because being overweight is a major risk
factor for chronic illnesses that can lead to kidney disease. If you
just have one kidney, that can be fatal.
"If we're in fact making dangerous decisions or
not using our best judgments and end up creating the next group of folks
who are going to need kidney transplants then we're really not serving
the population," says Dr. Cooper.
Right now there is no national weight limit for
donors, but about 10 percent of hospitals, including Georgetown, require
donors to have a body mass index under 35.
"I was just determined to see it through and the only obstacle was totally under my control," says Hall.
Hall worked with Georgetown doctors and
nutritionists to lose the weight. She lost 40 pounds in about six
months. Saving another person's life was her motivation.
"There was a match for me and he was waiting and
so I was on a mission," says Hall. "I was eating for two, so every time I
was tempted to eat something I shouldn't, I thought about him."
She continued dropping the weight, even after her surgery. She lost a total of 85 pounds.
"I owe him as much as he owes me, because he gave
me the motivation to do something I've been wanting to do for years,"
says Hall. "In a way, I feel like I got more than I gave, because he
gave me the gift of good health."
Doctors at many hospitals do work with potential
donors to help them lose weight. They also make sure that patients are
willing to change their lifestyle, so they can stay healthy