It looks as though I will receive approval for kidney-pancreas transplants through my insurance provider, PPO Blue, although there is no official word yet.
But Rita Green from Highmark Inc. notified me that she will serve as my insurance liaison -- I forget her actual title. She will help guide me through the transplant process. She recommended, for example, that I could be listed in other regions of the country for a transplant, which is a typical process for people seeking to shorten the waiting process. That means if a kidney-pancreas were to become available elsewhere that matches my blood type, I could qualify for it. But it also would mean traveling to Cleveland or another region or city for the operation.
That would make it a bit more difficult to get there on time and for my family to participate in the process or even visit me. I certainly will consider it as an option. It is something to discuss with the family.
Imagine getting a call: "Get to Cleveland as soon as possible. A kidney is awaiting you there. Hurry. Time is scarce. Ten! Nine! Eight! .... "
I can imagine my tendency will be to edge over the speed limit a bit en route to Cleveland, or even Pittsburgh for that matter, with that mandate hanging over my round head.
Ms. Green also informed me that my blood type is O-positive, which means perhaps a longer wait for a transplant because I cannot receive organs from a donor with a blood type of A or B. I need an O and nothing but an O.
I'm scheduled to discuss transplantation with Ms. Green in more detail. She seemed knowledgeable, positive and full of encouragement. She's also brimming with details that will be of endless interest to me. She gives me confidence that she will help make the transplantation process proceed as smoothly as feasible.
My thoughts at this point are that UPMC's Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Center and Highmark realize that the decision to seek a transplant is stressful and requires as much information, thought and encouragement as possible. I've been impressed with the time and insights they offer, including rather long conversations with Amy Singh at the transplant center. No question goes unanswered. Both UPMC and Highmark seem to stand behind the patient with the goal of making the tranplant process as stress-free and successful as possible.
So I look forward to speaking with Ms. Green and reporting what she says. She agreed with my assessment that the transplant process requires considerably more effort and information than most people realize. Just add things up for me: 18 medical tests. Various meetings. Numerous phone calls. I won't even mention the time involved in blogging. And, I must say, this transplant-qualification process involves more pokes and probes in private places than I ever thought could be poked or probed.
And, yet, I feel fresh confidence in my health as a result. Soon I expect to be on the kidney-pancreas transplant lists with full knowledge this process is a marathon, even an ultramarathon and not a sprint. It will require two or three years, especially with my O-positive blood type.
Still, it will be nice to be on such exclusive lists, even if I'm at the very bottom.