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Man urges people to ‘share your spare’ kidney with him — or another needing transplant

Sue Guinn Legg • Jun 8, 2019 at 11:44 PM

A Washington County man is taking a proactive approach to his need for kidney transplant, with T-shirts, car signs and a social media campaign urging potential live donors to share their spares.

62-year-old Jeff Shevell of Limestone, a former firefighter, police officer and emergency medical technician, says, “If it gets a single donor, whether it’s for me or for someone else who needs a transplant, it will be worth it.”

After more than 15 years of battling kidney disease, Shevell’s treatment has come down to two options: dialysis or transplant.

Still an active person, he prefers not to be tied to a dialysis center.

He completed the testing needed to win a place on the transplant list at Fairfax Hospital in northern Virginia In February, and he is going through the same evaluation process now with the transplant center at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville.

In the meantime, he’s preparing for a minor surgery and training that will allow him to administer his own dialysis at home.

His past work as an emergency medical technician, his current employment as a standardized patient working with student doctors at the medical school at East Tennessee State University and his years of internet research into the emerging medical possibilities for people with chronic kidney disease give him confidence.

“I look on Facebook and see so many people who are looking for kidneys and people who have found kidneys,” he said.

He believes the answer to reaching those who are interested in being a live donor lies in publicizing his plight and the plight of more than 100,000 Americans who need a donated kidney.

Thus the one-man campaign, the magnetic placards on Shevell’s vehicle, his “share your spare” T-shirts and his social media avatar depicting a pair of loving kidneys, all aimed at reaching someone willing to be tested.

“These days you don’t have to be a direct match. There are pair donations and chain donations,” he said, that connect multiple people who wish to help someone they love but is not a match, people who will be a live donor for a stranger in hopes of locating another person in a similar situation who will be the match their loved one needs.

Shevell has joined several closed social media groups for chronic kidney disease patients and sees how social media can impact both individual lives and transplant medicine in general.

“The goal,” he said, “is to get new donors, live donors, to go to a donation center and sign up. UT is the closest. Vanderbilt has (a center). And there are others in Virginia, northern Georgia and Alabama, and tons in the D.C., Boston area.”

“I’ve actually been publicizing my plight since February. My goal is make people aware, of my plight and the plight of others. If it helps anyone get an organ, it’s a wonderful thing.”

Information about how to make a living organ donation is available online at the UT Medical Center Transplant Services website at https://www.utmedicalcenter.org/medical-care/specialty-practices/center-for-transplant-services or may be obtained by calling 865-305-9236.

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