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Sandy Pittman was first diagnosed with diabetes around 20 years ago. Then high blood pressure problems kicked in. While she managed them both for years, she also knew she had kidney issues. In 2016, the Wilson Community College instructor learned she needed a new kidney.
“Things got progressively worse very quickly, and they said, ‘You need a transplant,’” said Pittman, who teaches music and religion at the college. Since then, Pittman, 54, has been on a waiting list at UNC Medical Center for a lifesaving kidney transplant.
So far, family members and friends who have been tested are not a match. But Pittman and her family hope the Wilson community can help.
“I realize it’s a huge commitment,” Pittman said. “A living donor would save my life and give me more quality time with my family. Saying ‘thank you’ seems so inadequate, but I would be so thankful if someone was willing to step forward.”
Pittman and her husband, Chris, have three sons.
More than 100,000 people across the country are waiting for a kidney, according to the National Foundation of Transplants. The average wait time can be anywhere from five to 10 years.
Pittman knows the longer it takes for her to receive a kidney transplant, the sicker she will get. And she wants to spend many more years with her family.
TREMENDOUS COMMUNITY SUPPORT
Pittman’s been receiving daily peritoneal dialysis at home since 2017.
“That way I could do it at home, and I could still work,” Pittman said.
In hemodialysis, the blood is pumped out of the body to an artificial kidney machine and then returned to the body by tubes that connect the person to the machine, according to the National Kidney Foundation.
In peritoneal dialysis, the inside lining of person’s belly acts as a national filter, according to the foundation.
Pittman said the peritoneal dialysis does takes a toll on her body and leaves her tired.
“Once I receive a new kidney, I won’t need daily dialysis,” she said. “My physical strength will improve, and my entire life will change.”
Pittman, who is also WCC’s chorus director, said she has tremendous support from the college as well as colleagues and students.
“I get a lot of energy from my students and the people I work with,” she said. “I feel energized when I finish a rehearsal.”
Many people from Pittman’s church and other churches have also tried to be a donor for Pittman, who is also a part-time minister of music at Winstead United Methodist Church.
GIVING PEOPLE LIFE
Kidneys from living donors generally have a much higher success rate and last longer than kidneys from deceased donors, according to the National Foundation of Transplants. Each year, thousands of kidney patients are removed from the waiting list because they have become too sick to make it through the transplant.
When a living donor steps forward, it removes the years-long wait.
“It’s really giving people life and quality of life,” Pittman said about donors.
‘YOU CAN BE A DONOR FOR SOMEBODY’
Finding a donor isn’t the only burden Pittman’s family has had to endure. The average cost of a kidney transplant is more than $414,000, according to National Foundation of Transplants. The nonprofit helps patients raise funds to pay for transplant related expenses, including any costs incurred by a living donor.
Pittman turned to the organization for fundraising support and guidance and help with some of those financial burdens.
“It’s a difficult time for Sandy and her family,” said Claire Prince, fundraising consultant for the National Foundation for Transplants. “At NFT, we want nothing more than to see someone step forward, get tested and turn out to be a perfect match for Sandy. What a great feeling that would be — truly giving someone the gift of life.”
Pittman said you never know whose life you can save.
“My main message is even if you can’t be a donor for me, you can be a donor for somebody,” she said. “There are lots of people out there who need a kidney transplant.”
HOW YOU CAN HELP
If you are interested in being tested to see if you are a potential match for Pittman, contact Amy Woodard, the living donor coordinator at UNC Center for Transplant Care, at 1-844-862-5436. For more information about Pittman’s journey, find the “Raising Hope for Sandy” page on Facebook for updates.
If you’d like to make a tax-deductible donation in honor of Pittman, please send a contribution to the NFT North Carolina Transplant Fund, 5350 Poplar Ave., Suite 850, Memphis, TN 38119. Please be sure to write “In honor of Sandy Pittman” on the memo line. Secure donations also can be made online at www.transplants.org. Donors should click on “Find an NFT Patient” to locate Pittman.