Firefighter Raises Awareness about Organ Donation as He Waits for Transplant
A Dauphin County firefighter is seeking to raise awareness about living organ donations, as he waits for a kidney transplant.

 

Richard Slusser has lived with a rare genetic kidney disorder his entire life, receiving his first transplanted kidney in 2006.

 

He came down with a stomach bug earlier this year while have an already-suppressed immune system, ultimately leading to the need for yet another transplant.

 

"Unfortunately, after I caught this bug, the decline went into hyper mode and took off," says Slusser.

 

He says the past several months have been an adjustment for him after spending years working a full-time job and spending about the same amount of time as a firefighter and, eventually, a chief in Union Deposit.

 

"The biggest eye opener was on September 24th, the doctors looked at us and said, you should have already been transplanted because your kidney is not working. It's only working 8 percent. And, if you don't find a transplant, you'll be dead in two months," said Slusser's wife, Mindy.

 

The Slussers and their friends reached out to Penn State Hershey Medical Center to provide community information sessions on living organ donation, citing the backlog of patients across the country waiting for organs from deceased donors.

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"I would say the general estimate is three to five years on the kidney transplant. At our center, I think it's three to three-and-a-half years," said Brooke Olenowski, a physician's assistant who works in the organ transplant department at the hospital.

 

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, more than 100,000 people are on a waiting list for an organ transplant. The majority of those people are seeking kidneys.

 

Several dozen people attended an information session at the Hummelstown Fire Department Monday to learn more about the process of organ donation.

 

The Slussers have spent the last several months trying to find a suitable match for Richard, only to be unsuccessful each time.

 

"You feel like such a failure because I was the one that found his first transplant. My sister-in-law donated," said Mindy Slusser.

 

Richard acknowledges he may not find a donor in time. But, he hopes by raising awareness of the need for donations, he may be able to save another person's life.

 

He said, "We've got to get the word out. This is my calling now." 

 

For more information about organ donation, you can contact Penn State Hershey Medical Center at (717) 531-6092 or (800) 525-5395. You can also visit http://ww.pennstatehershey.org/web/transplants/home