Make the unfathomable a reality: Eliminate the kidney transplant waitlist


As a kidney specialist, I envision a “moonshot” to eliminate the kidney transplant waitlist in Whatcom County. Our county could become a national model.

President John F. Kennedy declared in 1962 that the United States would put a man on the moon before the decade’s end. It’s reasonable to accomplish our moonshot to eliminate the waitlist by 2029.

This year marks the 55th anniversary of Neil Armstrong being the first man to step onto the moon on July 20, 1969, one of humankind’s most astonishing and ambitious achievements. These days, few people likely even think about that historic moment. But, it is a reminder of why we should dream – and dream big – recognizing that collaboration, creative thinking, community commitment and determination can make the unfathomable a reality.

April is National Donate Life Month, an ideal time to think big about being a living kidney donor.

One in three American adults is at risk for chronic kidney disease (CKD), which is a silent epidemic that affects over 37 million people in the U.S. Over 80 percent of people with CKD are undiagnosed and untreated. Knowing that you are at risk because of diabetes, high blood pressure or a family history should lead to appropriately frequent testing of kidney function and urine testing for protein. Diabetes is the top cause of kidney disease.

Nearly half of Americans, or 136 million people, are living with diabetes and prediabetes.

Fortunately, we have two kidneys, but we only need one. For those with end-stage renal disease, a kidney from a living donor is ideal because they can come off dialysis or be transplanted before dialysis is started. Patients live longer and have better quality lives with a transplant than on dialysis.

The Pacific Northwest has an incomparable history of leading-edge kidney research with a legacy of mission-driven care to individuals with CKD. Outpatient dialysis, including home dialysis, was first performed in Seattle.

More recently, the space research program from the University of Washington School of Pharmacy, the Kidney Research Institute and UW Medicine has sent miniaturized chips containing live human kidney cells to the International Space Station for study. The research has public importance far beyond space flight: They hope to learn more about how conditions such as protein in the urine, bone loss and kidney stones develop.

Because of the PNW’s wealth of experience in kidney research, innovation and treatments, people with chronic kidney disease have access to superior care, closer to home. Living donor kidneys tend to last much longer and are rejected less frequently than deceased donor kidneys. Also, the wait time for CKD patients who receive a kidney from a living donor is significantly shorter.

The Mount Baker Foundation (MBF) supports our community’s moonshot to eliminate the kidney waitlist and offers resources to make the often complex journey to transplant less overwhelming. The foundation can also help with out-of-pocket costs for eligible individuals and other services during the transplant process. MBF maintains an ongoing relationship with UW’s Kidney Research Institute and Center for Dialysis Innovation.

MBF is hosting a living kidney donation forum, Share Your Spare, 12-2 p.m. Sunday, April 21, including lunch, at the Squalicum Boathouse, 2600 N. Harbor Loop Drive in Bellingham. Contact Maria Macpherson to reserve your spot at

Dr. William Lombard is a retired nephrologist and past medical director of the Mt. Baker Kidney Center who volunteers at the Mount Baker Foundation.


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