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Donation of kidneys promoted

Joanie Herzog wanted to donate a kidney to her 7-year-old granddaughter, but they were not compatible. Instead, she gave a kidney to a stranger.

Now she's hoping that another stranger will do the same for her granddaughter, who has been on dialysis three times a week since she was old enough to walk.

It could happen, according to Alex McDonald, public education director for Intermountain Donor Services, Utah's organ recovery agency.

Tuesday, the Utah transplant community launched a campaign called "Yes! Utah Living Kidney Donor Program."

About a year ago, the agency surveyed Utahns about living kidney donation. A whopping 93 percent said they'd give a kidney to a friend or relative who needed it. And 39 percent said they would be wiling to give a kidney to a stranger. Of those, 10 percent said they'd be willing to do it in the next 12 months.

Based on those numbers, McDonald said, Utah could be the first state to put its kidney transplant waiting lists behind it, or at least most of it. The agency believes that if people who were willing to donate kidneys to strangers would get blood-typed, two-thirds of those waiting for a kidney could get one.

Currently, 140 Utahns are waiting for a kidney transplant.

"We could eliminate the list right now if people would come forward and donate," McDonald said.

There's no cost for blood-typing and other screening tests to determine whether someone is a suitable donor, McDonald said. The organ recipient's insurance or Medicaid pays for the screening tests. And until a match is made, transplant centers cover the costs of screening and matching. They would be reimbursed when a transplant occurred.

With kidney donation, people are typically back to work in a couple of weeks.

For more information, call 521-1755 or go online at for more information.