Grand Prairie-Born Celebrity Highlights Importance of Living Donation

When news broke that Grand Prairie-born celebrity Selena Gomez had undergone a kidney transplant earlier this year, many people were shocked since she had managed to keep it a secret for months. Something Gomez is not as secretive about is her battle with the autoimmune disease lupus, which ultimately led to her organ transplant.

On September 14, 2017, the actress revealed the news to her Instagram followers along with a photo of her and fellow actress Francia Raisa, who donated her kidney to Gomez.

“I’m very aware some of my fans had noticed I was laying [sic] low for part of the summer and questioning why I wasn’t promoting my new music, which I was extremely proud of,” Gomez says in her Instagram post. “So, I found out I needed to get a kidney transplant due to my lupus and was recovering. It was what I needed to do for my overall health.”

Lupus can have many different symptoms and can be hard to diagnose in the first place since many of the symptoms mimic other health issues, but the most common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue and fever
  • Joint pain, stiffness and swelling
  • Skin lesions that appear or worsen with sun exposure
  • Fingers and toes that turn white or blue when exposed to cold or during stressful situations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Dry eyes
  • Confusion and memory loss

Symptoms and intensity depend widely on the stage of the condition, with many flaring up then disappearing, but one of the biggest tell-tale symptoms is a butterfly-shaped rash on the face that covers the cheeks and bridge of the nose.

One of the organs lupus can affect is the kidneys, which is called lupus nephritis. The condition causes inflammation in the kidneys, preventing proper filtration of toxins from the body and elimination through urination. As those toxins build up, kidney function declines, which and can lead to kidney failure if it is not caught early.

Although lupus nephritis is primarily treated with medication, if a patient does not respond to the medication, then a kidney transplant is the next step.

In the United States, more than 116,000 men, women and children await lifesaving organ transplants, and about 80 percent are in need of a kidney. Although that number may seem staggering, kidney donation is unique from other organ donations in that patients do not have to wait for a registered organ donor to pass away. This is called living donation.

For Gomez, a living donation from her close friend saved her life.

“There aren’t words to describe how I can possibly thank my beautiful friend Francia Raisa,” Gomez says. “She gave me the ultimate gift and sacrifice by donating her kidney to me. I am incredibly blessed.”

Any kidney available for donation can be a lifesaving gift. However, gifts from living donors have several advantages. A kidney from a living donor usually starts functioning immediately, whereas patients who receive a kidney from a deceased donor may require dialysis until their new kidney begins to function on its own. A living donation also allows flexibility in scheduling the procedure, as well as the opportunity to find the best possible match for the patient and reduce the risk of rejection after the transplant.

“When someone is a living donor, he or she saves the life of the recipient as well as another person on the waiting list who will not have to wait as long for a deceased donor,” says Robyn Dye, M.S.N., M.B.A., R.N., C.C.T.C., transplant administrator of the Kidney Transplant Program at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth. “Many patients do not have a living donor, so that gift is very special.”

People of any age, ethnicity, country of origin or health status can register their life-saving decision. In response to the shortage of organs for transplantation, relatives, loved ones, friends and even individuals with no prior relationship are serving as living donors for the growing number of people on the national organ transplant waiting list.

“Many people believe you need to be a relative or have a genetic link to the person receiving the donation,” Dye says. “This isn’t true—a simple blood test can tell the person if he or she is a match with the potential recipient.”

Before a transplant, the potential donor goes through a medical evaluation to make sure he or she is physically healthy enough to give a kidney. It’s also important to make sure the donor knows their rights and has an opportunity to discuss any second thoughts, misgivings or questions they may have.

As for the recovery process, Dye says many donors can expect a short hospital stay and can typically return back to work or regular activities four weeks after surgery. On top of that, there is also no cost to donors for their donation.

Gomez actively advocates for research and awareness of lupus, but thanks to a lifesaving gift from a friend, she can now include “advocate for living donation”.

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