Since being diagnosed with a rare kidney disease in 2012, Brooklyn resident Fred Howe has been waiting for a kidney donor that could change his life.
Howe is on dialysis for Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis, a medical term that describes scarring on sections of the one million tiny kidney filters. The filters are known as glomeruli. They work to leave the proteins in blood, but their damage can result in kidney failure.
Following Howe’s diagnosis, the family turned to a 501c3 non-profit organization called Renewal for assistance in finding a kidney donor. Howe can only receive the kidney from a donor with type O blood, making up about 45 percent of the population in the United States.
Beyond that, the family has begun campaigning with lawn signs and informational bubbles on cars spreading the word that he is in need of a donor, and about organ donation in general.
With living donor transplants, Renewal’s guide states that evaluations are the primary critical step to a successful operation. Outside of blood tests and samples, donors must complete a few X-ray procedures and consultations to ensure safety and success. Renewal makes sure they are guided through the process.
Ideally, the blood types have to match to ensure that the body accepts the new organ. Antibodies that would otherwise reject donor kidneys can be removed with a process called plasmapheresis. The final step is mixing cells and serum to test how the new organ would react within the body before operating.
Turning to programs like Renewal gives Howe hope, and a way to “give back,” he said. “Sometimes, it’s hard to give back, but you always have to help people any way you can.”
For Howe, the onset of the illness opened his eyes to the shortage of organ donations. Since then, he planned to educate the surrounding community. He still stands by the fact that people are most surprised that family members are not always a match.
A graduate in Food Science & Management at Pratt University, Howe worked for Macy’s food division and joined Columbia University as director of food service for eight years. According to NephCure Kidney International, Howe is one of over 5,400 diagnosed each year.
The total average cost for a typical kidney transplant including the surgery, according to transplantliving.org, is upwards of $200,000, covered by insurance. There is no cost to the person who comes forward and Howe said that when somebody does, “they’re going to be so, so special.”
In the meantime, his wife Barbara has stapled cards to over 15,000 take-out menus for Leo’s Casa Calamari to spread the word. Howe’s six grandchildren are also spreading the word about Howe’s quest with self-made flyers and cards.
Information has been distributed on signs and in restaurants across the Brooklyn and New Jersey area, particularly in St. Ephrem parish where Howe grew up.
“I’m not ready to reinvent the wheel,” said Howe, “but the awareness spread by this campaign has been overwhelming.” He is touched by the amount of people who have approached him with questions about how they can contribute and help. Moreover, he also said that he is “fortunate to have my doctors have everything happen in the right place, at the right time.”
To help Fred Howe, contact Renewal at 718-431-9831 or by email at R1044@renewal.org. He is currently on three different medical waiting lists at Weill Cornell Medical Center, the University of Pennsylvania Health System, and St. Barnabas Medical Center.