Thursday, January 25, 2001

NKU student awaiting heart transplant

Family's only hope is donor awareness

By Chris Mayhew
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEXINGTON — A shortage of organ donations may stall a Northern Kentucky University student's chances to receive a new heart — even though he is at the top of a regional waiting list.

        Ryan Drake, 21, needs a heart transplant, and he has as little as three weeks to get it.

        Mr. Drake attends NKU and is a graduate of Simon Kenton High School. He also is a patient at University of Kentucky Hospital.

        His parents are attorney David L. Drake and Kathy Drake of Independence. David Drake works at Eric C. Deters & Associates in Fort Mitchell, which this week publicized an impassioned plea to encourage organ donations.

        The Drakes say that even if the effort doesn't help their son, it could help publicize the need for organs in general.

        “There is a shortage of donors,” Mr. Drake said. “People need to talk to their families and let them know their wishes” if they want to be organ donors.

        Another thing people can do, he said, is indicate on their drivers' licenses that they wish to donate their organs upon death.

        “By their generosity, many other people can gain a life, a normal life,” he said. “By a simple act of donating their organs, it allows your life to carry on after you are gone.”

        Ryan was diagnosed several years ago with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a thickening of the heart muscle. His condition worsened recently, requiring him to be hospitalized in December, his father said.

        That moved him to the top of the transplant list for this region, his father said.

        He is on both the University of Kentucky Hospital Transplant Center waiting list and the United Network For Organ Sharing (a national organization) waiting list. Representatives from both organizations said they do not confirm or release a person's status on the list for confidentiality reasons.

        Since Friday, Ryan has been connected externally to a machine to keep him alive. That temporary measure lasts for only several days, then the machine must be connected directly to his heart, a riskier prospect that may keep him alive three or more weeks, his father said.

        Because of Ryan's condition, his new heart must come from someone within four to six hours' travel time for the operation to be successful, said Jenny Miller, education coordinator for Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates.

       For more information on becoming an organ donor call LifeCenter at (800) 981-5433 or Kentucky Donor Affiliates at (800) 525-3456.


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- NKU student awaiting heart transplant
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