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June 2012
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March is National Kidney Month

Dear Annie: I'm a 41-year-old man who is in desperate need of a kidney transplant. Both of my kidneys are failing. I've been on dialysis for 13 years, three days a week for four hours each time. I have tried to work, but my illness has prevented me from holding down steady employment. The transplant team hasn't been able to find a match, as I have type A blood and very high antibodies (which is a result of the many transfusions I've had in order to stay alive). I received a transplant in January 2007, but it had to be removed almost immediately because it was found to have cancer.

My only hope is to have a transplant. I have joined the fundraising website GoFundMe to raise money to go to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. My goal is to raise $250,000, which is the cost of the procedure. If your readers would like to help, they can donate. My future is in the hands of people willing to help. I'm hoping you will print this letter and it will reach someone who might be able to help. I think of the Talmud: "Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world." -- Ian Enkin

Dear Ian: March is National Kidney Month, and in addition to visiting your donation page, I'd like to encourage all my readers to visit https://www.kidney.org for more information about kidney disease and a schedule of KEEP Healthy events, where they can be screened for kidney disease free of charge.

Dear Annie: Several times, I have seen you advise someone, "Talk to your physician." Their physicians may be no better qualified to address the issue than the average semi-educated individual.

Physicians are largely trained to prescribe drugs and have minimal training in nutrition, psychology and other fields outside their specialty.

My physician -- whom I thought was good when I started going to him 40 years ago, when he was just starting -- has repeatedly demonstrated an absence of medical familiarity outside his internist specialty, with perhaps the most blatant examples being when I had a melanoma the size of a half dollar on my arm, which he had covered with the blood pressure cuff each time I saw him, and a never-healing sore on my forehead, which he repeatedly dismissed as being a blemish.

My girlfriend ultimately persuaded me to see a dermatologist about the melanoma. The dermatologist confirmed that it was, in fact, a melanoma, and seeing as I was there, I asked him about the spot on my forehead, which he confirmed to be a basal cell skin cancer. He removed a hamburger-sized slab out of my arm (I watched as he exposed the bone!) and a smaller piece from my forehead and neatly sewed the gaps back together.

That is just one example, but I've known of instances when the longtime family physician diagnosed an illness as being a chest cold, only to have the patient, at the insistence of a spouse or offspring, go to a different doctor and be diagnosed as having advanced lung cancer. The delay in receiving a correct diagnosis in such cases means they soon became terminal, but we all die, and no one is perfect. -- MM

Dear MM: Though I stand by my recommendations -- talking to your physician is a good first step -- your letter underscores how infinitely important second (and even third) opinions are. Additionally, please don't settle for any health care provider who shrugs off your concerns.

Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.

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