According to the American Kidney Fund, the demand for kidney donations is higher than the demand for all other organs combined. Driggs resident Danielle Hannon is one of over 100,000 people hoping for a new kidney.
When she was 19, Hannon learned that she had polycystic kidney disease, a hereditary disease that causes the kidneys to enlarge and then fail. Three and a half years ago, blood work revealed that the 61-year-old’s kidneys had started shutting down, or had “hit rock bottom,” as she put it. Since then she has needed to be on dialysis for around ten hours per day.
Normally fist-sized, Hannon’s kidneys have swelled to the size of footballs. Her situation is complicated because she can’t be on a transplant list; her kidneys are so enlarged that she’ll need to undergo one surgery to remove them before she then has transplant surgery.
Hannon moved to Jackson in 1980, then over the pass to Driggs 22 years ago. She owned a frame shop, which she since closed because standing up at work was too uncomfortable. She and her husband Tim raised two daughters who now live in Bozeman.
She’s holding out for a kidney donor and while so far three people have stepped up as possible candidates, they haven’t quite matched.
“The process has dragged on since May with one donor at a time,” said Lissa Barber, a good friend of Hannon’s who went through the steps to determine if she was a viable donor.
Her husband’s brother’s wife Bethany came the closest to being a suitable donor. Hannon found out only two weeks ago that Bethany wasn’t a match. After a suite of blood and urine tests and a briefing on the process and effects, her kidney function came in two percentage points short of acceptable. However, Hannon said, that might be sufficient; retests are in the works.
“She’s got an amazing attitude,” Hannon said of Bethany. She said that being the recipient is the easy part; while Hannon’s insurance pays the donor’s bills, the health assessments, surgery prep, and recovery are a big commitment. However, she added, it’s a meaningful way to help another person.
“Definitely be a donor,” Hannon said. “You never know when you might save someone.”
Her daughters, Kelly and Mary, just set up a fundraising page on Hannon’s behalf at helphopelive.org/campaign/14384 because not all of the transplant surgery and other associated costs (which can total over $400,000) will be covered by insurance. They hosted a benefit at Bridger Brewing in Bozeman on New Year’s Eve and hope to hold another one in Driggs this month.
Hannon said she’s absolutely optimistic that she’ll be able to find a donor and undergo surgery.
“Medicine is so incredibly amazing now,” Hannon said. “I don’t complain, but it’s time to move on with my life.”