The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Lou Marzeles

Local man on the way to a new kidney


Lou Marzeles

YEARS ON  DIALYSIS: Calvin Fischer is raising funds for a kidney transplant.

Thanks to new trends in personal fundraising, a Goldendale man in need of a kidney transplant is approaching a financial goal while allowing donators to make tax-deductible contributions.

Calvin Fischer has been on dialysis for eight and a half years, ever since he lost both kidneys. It came as a surprise to him.

"I'm a registered nurse," Fischer says, "and as happens sometimes with health care professionals, it's the other people who get sick and you end up denying that you're having any problems." At that time Fischer was working at Golden View Terrace as the nurse supervisor at the assisted living facility. "In about the middle of 2006, I started showing symptoms of congestive heart failure," he recalls. "I was 52 at the time about, and I thought, 'Man, this is it.'"

From there he started developing symptoms of nighttime dysthymia, which is difficulty breathing. By December he had full-blown pneumonia. "I was meeting with some friends of mine," Fischer remembers of that dark holiday season then, "and one of them looked at me and said, 'Calvin, you're dying.' Just very frank." The next day, New Year's Day 2007, he checked into the emergency room. By that evening he was on dialysis.

Since then he spends hours on a dialysis machine, in the beginning 13 hours total, preparation and dialysis combined, then five hours a day for five days a week. That's 25 plus hours a week for eight and a half years.

"This is goofy for a nurse to be saying this," Fischer says, "but I have always had a phobia for needles, especially when they were coming at me. On starting on dialysis, actually the first four years, I was on peritoneal dialysis, which is where they put a catheter, a tube into the abdomen, and by putting fluid into the abdominal cavity and draining that fluid off, it removes many of the waste products kidneys normally remove. But I developed peritonitis, which put an end to that." From there Fischer went on to hemo dialysis. That's where they put needles into vessels in the arm and take the blood out of the person, run it through a machine that cleanses it, and then delivers the blood back into the person. "I had been in dialysis centers before, and as good as those staff are, they are pressed for time. They've got multiple patients they're taking care of and from time to time, there, there are slips. Being a nurse, I'm more aware of that. I also knew that, because of my training I know that there's no safer place environmentally then one's own home because we're accustomed to our own bacteria. I knew that there is no safer place to be than at home, but that meant that either I or a family member would be putting needles in." So Fischer's family, his wife and son, got trained on the process. His son is also the kidney donor.

A quest was ongoing for a transplant, and had Fischer wanted to go the normal route, he could have already had one. But dramatic new breakthroughs in transplant treatments led him to hold out for a different, experimental, process.

"I am applying for a clinical trial in Chicago," Fischer says. "The reason is, with this clinical trial, you have a live donor and from that live donor they collect stem cells. They process the stem cells, and then after the transplant they infuse the stem cells into the kidney recipient. And what that does is, after the recipient receives those kidney and stem cells, the immune system that has been squashed so to speak now begins to recover, and it recovers with both my stem cells and the donors stem cells. And the bone marrow looks at that and says, 'Oh, we need to produce an immune system that essentially is a blend of both us and the donor.'" The result of this new approach is that the recipient does not have to live the rest of his or her life taking medications to support the transplant, alleviating a significant lifelong burden.

While Fischer's insurance covers a lot of this process, it can't provide for the expenses of having the procedure done in Chicago-where he will have to reside for months during the follow-up. So he began looking for a way to raise the needed funds. He found the National Foundation for Transplants (NFT), which actually does everything short of actually raising money.

"They counsel, they advise, they will even print up flyers, brochures, and pamphlets," Fischer says. "They'll provide the support but don't do the actual fundraising. They are a fund holding organization. It's a 501© organization, so any funds that are donated to their patients becomes a tax-deductible donation for the donor-even though the funds go to help Calvin Fischer. They hold the funds in my behalf, which is one of the things that sold me on this organization. That keeps the money out of my hands. It sits in escrow, and when I submit bills for other expenses such as transportation costs, housing costs when I'm at the transplant center, those get covered."

And the funds have to be in place before he can have the transplant.

The goal is $32,000, the projected costs of traveling to and living in Chicago for the several months required for the process.

For anyone desiring to help this Goldendale resident make a dream come true for him and his family, go to Remember that donations through this organization are tax deductible.


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