California Educator

November 2013

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FEATURE "She Saved My Life!" Rialto member's colleague donates kidney BY SHERRY POSNICK-GOODWIN K eith Shattuck is thankful he has a loving wife, good friends, and a teaching job that he loves at Casey Elementary School in Rialto. But he wouldn't be around to appreciate these blessings if a colleague hadn't rescued him from "the brink of death" by donating a kidney. For that generous gift, Shattuck will be forever grateful to Sunitha Gokavi. "There are no words," says Keith Shattuck of colleague Sunitha Gokavi. Go Online A "silent" disease, Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is the 9th leading cause of death in the U.S. and disproportionately affects racial and ethnic minorities. Over 26 million Americans have CKD, nearly 600,000 of whom require either dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive, and 73 million more are at risk primarily due to diabetes or hypertension. For more about kidney disease, becoming a donor and organ transplants, check out these resources. National Kidney Foundation — National Kidney Registry — Renal Support Network — Donate Life America — 28 Educator 11 Nov 2013 v2.1 int.indd 28 "What can I say?" he asks, wiping Amazingly, six teachers — both current a tear and looking at Gokavi, a kinderand former employees of Casey Elemengarten teacher at Casey and fellow Rialto tary — plus two spouses of teachers visited Education Association member. "There are LLUMC to be screened as possible donors. no words. She saved my life." None passed the screening due to health Shattuck, 44, was first diagnosed with issues, until Gokavi stepped up to the plate kidney problems at age 23. He and passed with flying colors. was on dialysis for years before They weren't close friends; receiving his first kidney transshe didn't know him well. But plant in 1999 at Loma Linda she wanted to help if she could, University Medical Center because Casey Elementary (LLUMC) from a deceased School is the kind of place donor. That kidney lasted 11 where teachers do such things. years, the typical lifespan of "If you worked at Casey, you a transplanted kidney. wouldn't think it's so amazing," The fourth-grade teacher says Delicia Shattuck, Keith's Delicia Shattuck began feeling sick again in wife, a former Casey teacher 2011 and knew immediately now at another Rialto school. he was experiencing renal are family, not by blood She affected "Weby choice. At Casey failure. He felt lethargic and but my life had little appetite. Soon Elementary we celebrate he was back on peritoneal together, we mourn together, by giving dialysis, which manages we lift my husband andamazingeach other up. It's kidney failure until a kidney an school. There's back. transplant is possible. no other place like it." "I felt terrible," recalls It didn't matter that Gokavi Shattuck. "I tried to keep working, but wasn't a "match" for Shattuck, because the I kept getting sick and didn't have the hospital, like many others throughout the energy I needed for the job. The first time U.S., had a "paired exchange" donor proit happened, I was more accepting. I was gram. Under this kind of "pay it forward" sadder the second time around." plan, a donor who is incompatible with Shattuck went on medical leave and a designated recipient agrees to donate waited for a kidney. His wife offered to be their kidney to a stranger, in exchange for a donor, but was ineligible due to kidney the designated recipient receiving a kidney stones. He missed nearly two years of work. from another stranger. Keith's kidney He may have been absent, but his came from an altruistic college student in co-workers didn't forget about him. St. Louis, who started the chain. Gokavi NOVE M B E R 2013 11/13/13 6:31 PM

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