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Northeast Ohio Doc, Patient Celebrate Life-Changing Kidney Transplant

Mike Brown at Progressive Field about six weeks after his kidney transplant.
Mike Brown at Progressive Field about six weeks after his kidney transplant.

Mike Brown walks me around Progressive Field, explaining his job as a guest services rep for the Cleveland Indians.

He helps people in wheelchairs get around, sometimes escorts love struck baseball fans onto the field for dramatic marriage proposals - anything to help keep people happy during games.

"I love making people happy," Brown says.

A few weeks before the season opens, the stadium is cold, windy and mostly empty. But he's loving it.

"I’ve never been here on a Tuesday at around 11 am before, because that’s a dialysis time," he explains.

Until last month, Brown spent three five-hour shifts a week at a medical facility, hooked up to a machine that cleaned his blood. He was tied to this schedule for the last 12 years.
Brown says each treatment was like restarting a clock: "You only have so much time to be away from that machine or you die."

But not anymore. His body takes care of itself.

"It’s absolutely thrilling," he says.

Brown’s one of many patients who benefit from a new kidney allocation system. UNOS, the United Network for Organ Sharing, rewrote its policies to help disadvantaged patients.
People like Mike Brown, who were sick for a long time before getting a referral to the waiting list, are now getting transplants faster. They get waiting-time credit back to when they started dialysis.

"We’ve had an increase in the number of African-American patients receiving transplants," said Mark Aeder, a transplant surgeon who helped lead the reform effort at UNOS. He said early results show the system is getting fairer for patients with poorer access to health care. These patients tended to spend more time sick before a doctor helped get them on the transplant waiting list.

Aeder saw that first hand after Mike Brown’s transplant. He works at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, where Brown had his surgery. He dropped by to visit.

"It brings a big smile to your face when you see somebody like Mike, who’s going to be, hopefully, dialysis-free for the rest of his life now," Aeder said.

Brown thanked Aeder for helping him get his new kidney faster.

He’s looking forward to starting his fourth season with the Indians at their home opener April 10th.