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Dave Jacobs needs a kidney transplant

Mon, Jun 30, 2003; by Dave Winer.

There aren't many things we need in life to survive -- food, water, a warm place to rest, that's about it.

My good friend, David Jacobs, 47, is different. He needs a new kidney to survive.

Heís suffered for a decade with a degenerative condition called polycystic kidney disease or PKD and has been on the kidney transplant waiting list for two years.

The past two months have been full of problems and complications and a couple of days ago, Dave he told me he was going to take his appeal for a kidney donor public. Until now heís been extremely private about his condition, but he is hoping to not only find a potential donor for himself, but to raise awareness for organ donation in general. When he asked if I would help, of course I said yes.

Dave and I have been friends for almost twenty years. I could write about all the things we've been through together, it's a lot, but now we're working on the biggest project we've ever worked on, surviving. Daveís a hi-tech guy and has worked in sales, marketing and business development for several software companies including Microsoft, Macromedia and Marimba. For the past two years heís been unable to hold full time work due to his condition.

About ten years ago David told me that he has what he called Die Young Disease. He inherited it from his father, as did his younger brother and sister. Two years ago his brother Brandt died from the complications related to the disease. I called David on the day his brother died, not knowing what had happened. It was surreal being his friend as he traveled East to collect the body and sort through his brother's life. Can you imagine what it's like to bury a younger brother who died from the same disease that's almost certain to kill you? That's what my buddy Big Dave had to do.

David and his wife Amy are expecting their third child in July, and are also raising Brandtís eleven-year-old boy, and their two sons. Raising 4 kids is a tremendous load for anyone, and Daveís declining health is an additional burden to carry. Until a few weeks ago David had a compatible donor and was preparing for transplant surgery. His donor was a woman whom he had never met, but heard about his need through a friend of a friend. As an operating room nurse, she understood the procedure and without hesitation offered a part of her body to save David's life. Although her kidney was compatible, she failed one of the medical tests and was disqualified, and David is looking, once again, for a donor. It is important to understand that the hospital will never do an operation if they feel any doubt about the donorís long term health.

I love this guy, he's such a fighter, and so upbeat about the future. Unfortunately, dialysis has not been easy and is wrecking his health. He's a shadow of his former robust self. My friend is dying, and I hope someone can help him.

Polycystic kidney disease 

With polycystic kidney disease it takes years for the kidneys to degenerate to the point where they no longer work. Today his kidneys have only two percent function remaining.

Starting dialysis early this month had its own complications; the standard fistula access and peritoneal dialysis are not options for him. He now has a permanent catheter implanted through his chest into his heart, and although this limits his activities (he can't shower or swim, for example), he can receive dialysis, which he is now doing three days a week.

The dialysis appears to be working and he is somewhat stable, although heís currently got a kidney infection which is fairly common with PKD.

Being a Living Donor 

Daveís need is simple: he needs a compatible O-positive kidney.

All the expenses, including medical disability would be covered by his insurance. Loss of wages are covered as well.

To qualify as a living organ donor, an individual must be physically fit, in good general health, and not have high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, kidney disease or heart disease. Individuals are usually between 18-60 years of age. Gender and race do not matter. The screening process to become a living donor is a long road with many potential obstacles along the way. Having the right blood type is a start, but certainly not a guarantee of compatibility or acceptance. For an overview of the evaluation process check out Living Donors Online.

Unfortunately all of Daveís donors have had the wrong blood type or have been rejected through the screening process. It's likely he won't survive the 5-plus year wait for a kidney from the organ transplant waiting list. If you or someone you know are interested in getting evaluated as a potential donor, please contact Dave at 415-264-6444, or send email to, and we can put you in touch with the transplant coordinator at UCSF, David's transplant center.

I strongly encourage anyone who is interested in becoming a donor, not just for Dave, but for anyone, to learn as much as you possibly can. The success rate for kidney transplants with living donors at UCSF is at 95% and the vast majority of donors suffer no long-term health problems.

Thank you for reading this far. I've included some links below to places with information about donating organs.

More information 

Living Donors Online.

United Network for Organ Sharing.


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