Waiting for ‘the match’ can be one of the hardest things in the world to do. A patient waits for what it seems a lifetime for a compatible donor to replace a defective organ or a flaw in the blood or bone marrow.
At times, a match is found, but extracting the organ or blood is trying and the health of the donor precludes him or her from being a viable candidate. That was the case for Ed Kranepool. An original Met from 1962, an All-Star in 1965, and, of course, part of the ‘Miracle Mets’ of 1969, Kranepool is a New York Met fixture but was recently dealt bad news, his potential match to replace a kidney had complications and can not donate.
Kranepool, 74, has been an insulin-dependent diabetic for most of his adult life. He has already suffered some peripheral damage due to the disease as he lost his toes of his left foot and must use a cane to walk. He has been waiting for a kidney for better than six months and although dozens of people have been tested, up until recently, a match was not found. When a match was found, surgery was scheduled for this month, but it was found the donor had an enlarged prostate and was unable to proceed. Kranepool is now in limbo with two failing kidneys and a worsening prognosis if a match is not found soon.
To his credit, Kranepool has remained positive through this whole ordeal. He was at an event recognizing the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Mets this past Wednesday at Citi Field and told reporters, “You have to keep positive, because what’s the alternative?…There’s no reason to give up. Life is fun. Life is good.” He is using his time these days to educate people on organ donation and is working tirelessly “whether I get (a kidney) or not”.
Getting a compatible donor is not easy. According to Be the Match, one of the largest registries in the world for matching patients to donors, only one in forty potential donors are called for additional testing after an initial swab of the cells in the mouth. Of those, one in 300 will be selected as a potential donor. The problem is that most of our cells have protein markers which have to be matched. It is known as the HLA (human leukocyte antigen) system. Though we have many of these markers on our cells, studies show that an adequate donor must match at least six , which is not statistically easy. If less than six markers match, the chance of organ rejection increases and the transplant will likely fail. This is why there are so many Be the Match events held at churches, synagogues and clubs trying to swab as many people as possible to help improve the chances of finding compatible donors.
I know quite a bit about transplantation, not only because what I learned in optometry school, but because I am a two-time cancer survivor. In each instance, I needed a stem cell transplant for a chance to survive. Fortunately, though there were some hairy moments, I was able to find a compatible donor and my blood cancer is in total remission. My family sponsors Be the Match events at our synagogue to this day. Thanks to the registry and some amazing doctors, my children have a daddy and my wife is not a widow. I fervently urge my MMO family to participate in a swabbing event to potentially ‘be the match’.
Ed Kranepool is still waiting and hopefully he’ll get a donor soon. Fortunately, since he is well known by many, people in droves are getting tested. He remarked, “We have had a lot of fans call. (They) go to the hospital and get tested. Many, many have gone…but for whatever reason are not a match”. But Kranepool is grateful that so, so many have tried, remarking, “There are people in the world who give back. It is tremendous.”
Transplantation is a relatively new branch of medicine. It has given hope to those who had none, life to many who had no chance. A good deal of fortune is still involved, however, as most of us have a strong immune system and will reject even the slightest of foreign bodies. That is why it is so important to be the match, to fool the immune system so engraftment is possible.
I was lucky enough to find my match. Many hundreds of others are also being cured from diseases that just ten years ago were thought to be a death sentence. Let’s all hope that Ed Kranepool finds his match and he continue to espouse the virtues of organ donation and educates the public on getting tested.
We here at MMO hope that he is successful and that come the 50th anniversary of the 1969 World Champion Mets later this autumn, he is well on his way to having a fully functional kidney and a full and normal life.