Cocalico Corner: Buddy, can you spare a kidney for a Cocalico kid?

By on July 19, 2017
Cocalico Corner Donna Reed

What would you do if you woke up with Stage 4 renal disease?

Steve Sloat, a 1985 Cocalico High School graduate, knows exactly what he does. He’s grateful for the new day, family and friends, and he’s off to the job he’s enjoyed for nearly 30 years.

There’s one more thing: Sloat, of Denver Borough, is a man on a mission to save and improve his health. He is on the hunt for a living kidney donor.

The transplant clock is ticking for Sloat. His kidney function of 18 percent at the holidays has now dropped to 13 percent.

“It’s declining at a slow rate,” he said from his post as UGI print shop supervisor during a Tuesday afternoon phone interview.

Still, there is only three percentage points to go before Sloat enters Stage 5 of the disease. That stage signifies permanent kidney failure requiring him to go on dialysis, something that would unequivocally change his home and working life.

“My goal is to get something going before I hit Stage 5,” he said.

A smiling Steve Sloat on the job in the UGI print shop. Photo courtesy UGI/Joseph Swope

A smiling Steve Sloat on the job in the UGI print shop. Photo courtesy UGI/Joseph Swope

Sloat, who grew up in Reamstown, was first diagnosed with Stage 3 renal disease in 2014. As he recalls, the disease presented no symptoms. Rather, routine blood work (required due to the medications he takes for high blood pressure) showed that his creatinine levels continued to rise. That was the tip off that he was afflicted by the disease.

Ironically, the blood pressure medications are currently the only therapy for the disease, he said, as there are no real treatments.

Besides exhibiting no symptoms, the disease has not really changed Sloat’s life from his activities to his ability to be on the job. Yet, the blood work reminds him that his future could be very different.

Now in Stage 4, he’s inching towards the top of the Pinnacle Health-Harrisburg transplant list. Sloat said the National Donor List has a formula that prioritizes those most in need.

“I have had all of the testing done and I am listed on the National waiting list,” he said.

Sloat’s ideal donor would be someone with Type O blood.

“They told me the wait time for my blood type could be up to six years,” he added. “This is why finding a living donor at this time would be my best option.”

Healthy donors can indeed live and thrive with one kidney.

High in donor compatibility would likely be Sloat’s sisters. However, one has suffered from kidney stones which disqualifies her and the other’s blood work has displayed an abnormality which precludes her donation.

There is a reason why Sloat is hoping for a live donor.

“The advantage to getting a live donor versus a cadaver donor is that the organ function is much better,” he said, noting the live kidney has an expected duration of 20 to 30 years versus the cadaver kidney’s 10 to 15 years.

That makes a big difference for the 49-year-old Sloat who hopes to be around for many years for his wife Sue, and grown children Evan, 23, and Reilly, 20. And, then, of course, down the road there’s hope to be active with grandchildren.

Still, living donors are harder to come by. Kidney.org statistics indicate that annually about 11,500 transplant kidneys come from deceased donors while less than half of that number — some 5,500 — are the gifts of live donors.

The quiet and stoic Sloat is not exactly at ease speaking about his situation. But, he’s doing so for himself, his family — and ultimately others who may find themselves in the same spot.

“This is out of my comfort zone,” he said. “I’m a behind-the-scenes kind of guy.”

He speaks proudly and affectionately of his PinnacleHealth support personnel, including Nancy DeSanto, living donor coordinator, and Becky Mulreany, transplant coordinator.

While they are on the look out for all their patients, Sloat is doing his part for himself and others in need. This interview with The Ephrata Review is his first public outreach.

Some individuals have already stepped forward to be tested.

“The doctors say the more options, the better,” he said. “There may be one or no matches among the 10 or 15 people tested. The more options the better.”

Joe Swope, UGI Utilities Inc. communications manager, and Sloat’s long-time colleague is helping to get the word out as well.

“On a personal note, Steve is also a really nice guy who I have worked with ever since I started here,” Swope said.

Here’s hoping that Sloat’s friends and former classmates in their corners of Cocalico, will step forward and be tested — and spare a kidney for a buddy.

The basic criteria for a live donor, according to PinnacleHealth, are:

* Anyone age 18 or older;

* Parents, children, husbands, wives, friends, coworkers, total strangers even;

* Individuals without high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, HIV, hepatitis, or kidney problems.

* Individuals who are in good mental and physical health.

For more information on becoming a living kidney donor, call Pinnacle Transplant Services at 877-778-6110. DeSanto’s direct number is 717-231-8825.

You can also visit www.pinnaclehealth.org/transplant.

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