GREER—A small parish community has embraced a “unique call for help” from a fellow parishioner.
Since mid-December, St. Rafka Maronite has included in its weekly parish bulletin a letter from Joe Baranski, a retired engineer and member of the church for the past eight years.
Baranski has been diagnosed with end-stage kidney disease, the final stage of chronic kidney disease, which means his kidneys are no longer functioning adequately.
“My kidneys do not work well enough to keep me alive,” Baranski writes in his letter to the parish.
First diagnosed in 2010, Baranski has received dialysis treatments for the past three years in hopes of finding a donor kidney, but the waiting list is long. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, which manages the nation’s organ transplant system, the U.S. currently has more than 116,000 people on the waiting list.
At age 67, Baranski isn’t ready to slow down any further. “It’s not in my nature to sit. I want to go on,” he said, but not tied to a dialysis machine four hours a day, three days a week.
“(The dialysis) helps my kidneys do their job and keep me alive. But a transplant would offer me the ability to live a longer, healthier, more normal life, and with more freedom,” he said. “I have six grandchildren and I want to be around for them.”
Baranski said he is working with MUSC in Charleston to get on the list to receive a deceased donor kidney, and also sign up for a living-donor transplant through the National Kidney Registry.
“You can get on more than one list, which is like playing two games of chance instead of one,” Baranski said.
Father Bartholomew Leon, pastor at St. Rafka, praised Baranski as a “valued member of our community. I know he is living in a nightmare at this time.”
Father Leon said several parishioners have volunteered kidneys since Baranski’s letter first appeared in the parish bulletin, but were refused for various medical reasons after being screened by MUSC.
“We have had a good response and I am proud of my people,” Father Leon said. “They are generous.”
Baranski said the response from parishioners and the Greer community has been humbling. Several local merchants have posted his letter in their stores.
“It started as a way to share my story, but now I want to spread the word about kidney disease and raise awareness of living donation,” he said.
For more information about living donor transplants, contact MUSC’s Kelly Canavan at 843-792-1594.
Photo of Joe Baranski by Terry Cregar/Miscellany