Every year, about 100,000 people in the U.S. develop complete kidney failure. By which they have about a week to live if they don’t initiate dialysis or get a kidney transplant.
In 1954, dialysis kept Richard Herrick alive long enough to receive the world’s first successful organ transplant. He received a kidney from his identical twin and gained eight more years of life. Richard Herrick’s landmark surgery led to thousands of kidney transplants, to thousands of lives full of new possibilities. More than 300,000 kidney transplants have been done in the U.S. since then.
Typically individuals wait three to five years for a kidney transplant. Most of the candidates in the United States now waiting for a kidney transplant are undergoing dialysis. Without it, they certainly would never survive the wait. They would never have the chance to explore new possibilities.
But using age as a determining factor in whether to offer dialysis does not reflect the needs of our population or appropriate medical care; young and old alike can benefit from dialysis. And our population is aging; the number of people over 65 has increased dramatically and is expected to more than double by 2050. As all of us who care for patients know, the health of any individual is not determined by their chronological age alone. In fact, due to better care for individuals of all ages, the percentage of patients over 65 who develop completely failed kidneys has been falling.