Stevie Wonder: Are You Vaccinated?

I’m asking not just as a concerned long-time fan but mostly because he’s in the over-65 age group and, even more important, a kidney transplant recipient. The latter is a particularly vulnerable group because of having a tamped-down immune system designed to avoid attacking his transplanted kidney. If a kidney recipient like Stevie Wonder, or my son (to whom I donated 14 years ago), contracts the coronavirus, he is at far greater risk of having a severe case.

There are still some skeptics out there who fear taking the vaccine because kidney recipients—immuno-suppressed individuals in general—were not included in the vaccine clinical trials. I’ll admit I was a bit wary in the very beginning, too. But this is not a live vaccine, it’s safe, and it’s similar to earlier groups of vaccines about which scientists have a lot of experience. Also, and frankly, this is the bottom line: we do know about the risks of COVID and they’re very real. It’s no contest. Health authorities recommend that transplant recipients be vaccinated.

Alas, like everything else about this pandemic, access to the vaccines is not uniform. It varies by state, by demographic groups, and by circumstances. Millions of vulnerable people have not yet received theirs. In my state, North Carolina, healthcare providers of people with kidney failure and advocates, have urged the governor to move up this group in the priority order. As people in the currently eligible population still struggle to snare an appointment for theirs, it hasn’t happened yet.

Being in that eligible population, I feel very fortunate to be fully vaccinated—and now fully protected. Why am I still wearing a mask in the photo then? For the same reason I’ve been doing it since last spring: because we don’t know yet if vaccinated people can infect others–and I care about the people around me.

According to the Washington Post, “An estimated 81 million adults have conditions that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies as posing an increased risk for severe covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.”

 So, sure, it’s extremely comforting to know that I’m fully protected, but that’s not true for my immuno-suppressed son, my immuno-suppressed friends, my friends with health conditions in other states, my younger daughter, my neighbors—in fact, most of my community—so you bet I still wear a mask and keep my distance. It’s worth it.

(Stevie: If you have had the COVID shots, please show your card, too, and continue to tell your story. Let other transplant recipients and any skeptics know!)

A Perfect Podcast to Honor National Donors Day

It’s been a busy couple of weeks since I last wrote about recording a guest spot on “This Podcast Will Kill You.” The episode on organ transplants aired this week and is available now. It fittingly arrived just in time for National Donors Day, which falls on Valentine’s Day. Learning about the fascinating biology and history–and critical need for–organ transplantation should spur more people to decide to register as organ donors.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

About 110,000 people in the United States are waiting for a lifesaving organ (most of them for a kidney). Only about 3 in 1,000 people die in such a way that organ donation is possible–for example, in a hospital following a car accident–so the pool is very small. That’s why it’s critical that everyone register. And those who can be organ donors can donate up to eight organs: two kidneys, two lungs, a pancreas, a liver, a heart, and intestines. Plus eyes and tissue–even hands and face.

The TPWKY podcast episode (no. 66, by the way, entitled “The Outs and Ins of Organ Transplants”) opens with my telling my story of donating to my son. Then Betsy Crais tells her story of receiving a kidney. Of course, we talk about our upcoming book, The Insider’s Guide to Living Kidney Donation. We were thrilled to learn that Erin Welsh, the co-host who interviewed us, had already read the complete manuscript and loved it. She urged listeners to watch for the book and even wrote a blurb for the book cover!

Please go to organdonor.gov or any of several sites and register now. It will take just a minute. And be sure to tell your family of your wishes to be an organ donor. As much as I want to encourage living donation, on the opening page of this website, I recognize that “being a living donor isn’t for everyone. It’s a big decision.” Registering to be a donor after your death, on the other hand–when you don’t need those precious organs anymore–just seems like a no-brainer.