At age 50, Micheletti was diagnosed with kidney failure that was likely triggered by daily use of the over-the-counter medicine. A kidney transplant in 2015 saved his life.
"I am lucky to be alive," said the former Gophers star, now a radio broadcaster and TV hockey analyst.
That's because it's harder than ever to find kidney donors, whether living or deceased. About 108,000 people are listed on the national kidney transplant waiting list, yet only about 18,000 people received a kidney transplant last year and 4,745 died while waiting, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, affiliated with the
The kidney waitlist "has the highest number of people on it and it has the longest wait times," said Dr.
Now Micheletti is drumming up support for the cause, including the 11th Annual Twin Cities Kidney Walk on Saturday in
Nearly 80 percent of the
"Kidney disease is a silent disease. When you look at someone with kidney disease, you often don't know they are sick," said
Getting a kidney from a live donor offers the best long-term odds of survival. With funding from the
"We are doing truly long-term follow-up of kidney donors," said Dr.
A kidney from an average living donor lasts about 14 years, while a kidney from an average deceased donor lasts around nine years, Dean said.
But the number of live kidney donations in the
Medical costs are covered by the recipient's insurance, but the prospect of missing weeks of work and travel expenses could act as a deterrent for prospective donors.
In 1999, the U created a way for a person to donate a kidney to a stranger. Since then, there have been more than 100 of so-called "nondirected donations."
Initially Oien tried to donate to her mother-in-law, who suffered from genetic kidney failure, but she wasn't a match. Oien then went on a donor list where she would give her kidney to a stranger and, in return, her mother-in-law would get a stranger's kidney. But her mother-in-law became too ill to undergo a transplant.
Oien decided to go ahead and donate a kidney to a stranger anyway; her husband had kidney problems and she felt like paying it forward. But her three children were skeptical.
"They thought I was nuts. A lot of people did. My parents asked: Why risk your life to help a stranger?" Oien said. "Since then they think it's a pretty great thing."
Oien, who serves meals to seniors at an assisted-living facility, took on a second job as a wedding server to make sure she could pay the bills while she missed work. Some of her co-workers gave her their vacation time.
Oien met the man who received her kidney six months after the procedure. He's a father and a truck driver from
"I would 100 percent recommend it to anyone who is thinking about it," she said. "It's the best gift I have ever given."
Doctors told Micheletti in 2014 that he needed a new kidney, most likely because of his ibuprofen use. He got a kidney from his brother, sparing him a years-long wait.
"My first thought was: You are kidding me," Micheletti said. "I was shocked. I just had no indication. That's why I get involved now -- to help other athletes understand."
He said he started taking ibuprofen regularly during his hockey seasons at the U and continued the practice into his pro career. Long-term ibuprofen usage is linked to kidney failure, although it's unclear if it causes the problem or makes an underlying issue worse.
Micheletti's case can spur conversations, Dean said.
"The main message is, there is not an organ shortage. There would be plenty if more people donated," he said.
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