DONATE LIFE: Reporter Dustin Cuzick waits for life-saving transplant

Published: Apr. 15, 2019 at 2:09 PM MDT
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11 News reporter Dustin Cuzick's days revolve around two main activities: work and dialysis. Every night for 11 and a half hours he uses an at-home dialysis machine. Another three hours of the dialysis process is done at work.

"It's kind of life-consuming," he said. "That's all I've really known the last two years is dialysis and work. Work has been a nice escape."

Many of you know Cuzick's story. We

last summer when his hospital's transplant program temporarily shut down. For the past two years, Cuzick has been waiting for a new kidney and pancreas. He has end-stage kidney disease from type 1 diabetes.

"Now I'm next on the list at my hospital," he said.

So many 11 News viewers have asked how he's doing: writing, calling, and asking his colleagues whenever there's a chance.

"We were out at a breaking news situation, and this lady came up and just wrapped her arms around me and hugged me and started to cry a little bit," Cuzick said, recalling one of many outpourings of support from viewers. "I lost it ... I know the viewers are out there, but to know that they care that much and to see them let you know -- I really appreciate it."

Other viewers have sent cards. Some have asked how they could get tested to find out if they could be a match. One woman even called the KKTV newsroom asking if she could donate her deceased son's organs. Staff in the newsroom couldn't hold back their tears as she expressed her hope that her loss of a loved one could help another live.

Cuzick is one of nearly 2,000 people in Colorado waiting for life-saving transplants, according to Donate Life Colorado.

"Being on dialysis, sometimes people get sicker while they're waiting. So it's frustrating for them to try to stay well enough for transplant, but continue to get weaker and sicker while they're waiting," said Kimberlie Jackson, Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Coordinator at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora.

Jackson says, depending on blood type, patients can wait two to seven years for a new kidney, an organ that can actually come from both deceased and living donors.

Healthy adults only need one kidney to live. Jackson says the procedure to donate a kidney is simpler than you might think.

"[Living donors] are able to live very healthy lives afterwards. They're in the hospital for only about 24 hours. So they go home and see us in about a week, and after that, their follow up is with their primary care doctor," she said.

Cuzick is no longer being tested for living donors, but he still encourages people to get checked if they're willing to donate to someone else who needs a life-saving transplant.

April is Donate Life Month, a campaign that aims to raise awareness of the importance of donor organs and the shortage that leads thousands of people to wait years for a transplant.

If you would like to donate your organs if you pass away, make sure your loved ones know. If your license doesn't indicate you're willing to be a donor, a simple stop at the DMV to check "yes" to organ donation can change a life.

If you don't feel like making a trip to the DMV, you can simply

and take 30 seconds out of your day to sign up on the National Donate Life Registry. Both the state and national registries are checked by donation professionals at the time of the donor's death.

"It doesn't require a lot of effort," Cuzick said. "It's a huge thing. It's a huge gift, but as far as checking that box on your license, it doesn't require a lot of effort, and it will literally change the lives of countless people."

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