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Santa Rosa dad hates to ask, but he really needs a kidney

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It pains Richard Lazovick to speak up and ask for something.

“I’ve always been a private person,” he said.

He’s a moderately geeky single dad who has always worked close to technology. These days, he runs classes in his east Santa Rosa home, teaching regular people to operate their computers, tablets, cellphones, stereos and such.

It’s counter to his nature to ask friends, much less strangers, for help. Especially, he said, “for something of this magnitude.”

At nearly 55, Lazovick needs a kidney. Both of his have failed almost completely, requiring that he spend hours a day on the arduous process of home dialysis.

“Technically,” he said, “I’m dialyzing all the time.” Dialysis mechanically performs some of the functions of kidneys, chiefly by removing waste and excess water from the blood.

There are waiting lists for people like Lazovick, who would gratefully accept a kidney from someone who died and whose family agrees to donate some or all of his or her organs. But Lazovick knows that many potential transplant recipients die or become too ill for the surgery before they rise to the top of the list.

The National Kidney Foundation says 13 people die each day while waiting for a kidney from a deceased donor. The best Lazovick can figure, he may be in line for such a kidney for as long as about eight years.

Rather than quietly wait, he’s asking for something superior: a kidney donated by a living person.

He said, “The doctors keep telling me, ‘You need a live donor. You need a live donor.’”

Lazovick has steeled himself and put out a call for help among fellow Rotary Club members and the people at his temple. He has created a personal website that, not surprisingly, given his tech background, is quite nice.

Located at akidneyforrichard.com, it shows a photo of Lazovick and his son, Joshua, who’s 15 and a freshman at Maria Carrillo High School. Lazovick said Joshua is a big part of the reason he’s gone public with his search for a donor.

“I want to be here to see him graduate, get married, have kids,” he said.

He yearns to move beyond dialysis because it is exhausting, it leashes him to his home and he knows that at some point, it could stop working for him. With a donated kidney, he said, “I will feel better, have more energy and be able to do a lot more.”

To have a live kidney, he added, “is the real thing, compared to dialysis.”

Live kidney donations are becoming more common, but still rare is a person who gives a kidney to someone they’ve not been close to.

Lazovick is quick to note that donors can get along fine with just one kidney and that the costs of the transplant are picked up by the recipient’s insurance company. Anyone interested in giving him a kidney must, at the least, be in good health and have type O blood.

There are people close to Lazovick who have been tested as potential donors, but so far none has been found compatible or suitable. Lazovick is open to a somewhat novel prospect: a chain or paired donation.

If Person A wants to donate a kidney to Person B but they are not compatible, and Person C wants to donate to Person D but cannot, it might be possible for A to donate to D, and C to B.

In 2009, a complex chain choreographed by Georgetown University Hospital in D.C. brought the transfers of kidneys from 13 donors to 13 recipients. In 2015, a chain that began in Minnesota grew to a 68-person series of kidney transplant surgeries.

“Anything that would work, I’m willing to pursue,” Lazovick said.

Anyone interested in exploring the possibility of donating a kidney to Lazovick should check out his website, then fill out a UCSF Medical Center questionnaire at ucdonor.org.

Lazovick tells of being certain of just the type of person he’s hoping will step up: “A kind, healthy person who wants to help somebody, and who’s serious about it.”

Chris Smith is at 707-521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.

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