ORLANDO, Fla. — More than 100,000 people across the country, including more than 5,000 in Florida, are waiting to get a potentially life-saving organ transplant.
Organ donor network administrators and doctors said the coronavirus pandemic could force them to wait even longer.
Krystle Pitts is a performer at heart.
She’s worked at Disney, Universal and Busch Gardens. But in 2015, her dream was nearly derailed when she found out she had stage five kidney disease.
She’s had to endure dialysis three day a week, every week to stay alive.
“Sometimes I would have dialysis in the morning, like 6 to 10, and then I would go straight to work and do shows,” Pitts said.
After four years of waiting and wondering if she’d ever get a kidney, on Easter weekend she got one.
“Everyone doesn’t get that second chance,” she said. “And so this was a gift I was given because someone made that choice to give.”
But even people willing to donate may not be able to if they contract the coronavirus.
Sajid Chaudhary, an infectious disease doctor with Advent Health, has treated COVID-19 patients for several months.
“And now we are facing the shortage of donors – like millions of people that have been infected all over the states – and those were all, or a majority of them, potential donors,” Chaudhary said.
Chaudhary says that shortage, combined with the pandemic delaying transplant procedures, could make the wait longer for those who need organs.
Donate Life Florida says the wait list hasn’t grown dramatically yet, but they are now urging as many people as possible to join the list.
They’re hoping their new license plate will help get that message across.
A small act of someone signing up online can save someone’s life years down the road.
Pitts no longer has to endure dialysis.
“I just celebrated six months with my new kidney,” Pitts said. “Things are going well, I’ve been performing again.”
Despite losing her job with Disney a few weeks ago, she’s picking up part-time work.
And even during a pandemic, she’s carefully enjoying her second chance.
“I’m doing some part-time work and I have a gig for the Halloween season,” Pitts said. “So I’m able to do things, but I’m very, very cautious.”