Funds from Transplant Walk a ‘Lifesaver’ to Patients

Gerald Bacon of Chatham received a lifesaving kidney transplant in November 2010. Wegener’s disease had led to kidney failure, and after more than a year of dialysis, Bacon learned he qualified for a kidney transplant. His partner of nearly 15 years, Connie Schneider, was his donor.

He immediately felt better following his operation.

“When I was on dialysis, I was eating right and felt pretty good,” he said. “Then I had the transplant. The day after the operation, you’d think a person would feel pretty bad, but I felt better. I didn’t realize that even though I was on dialysis, how bad I really did feel.”

Though his health outlook had improved, Gerald had some financial concerns on the horizon following his transplant. Because his insurance required a very high co-pay for medication, he was looking at paying thousands of dollars out of pocket for his anti-rejection and anti-viral medications.

But thanks to Memorial’s transplant patient assistance fund, Gerald was able to receive temporary assistance with paying for his medications. He then was able to apply for and secure a grant to pay for his necessary medication.

“It was a lifesaver — besides the kidney,” he said.

On Saturday, Sept. 17, The Alan G. Birtch, MD, Center for Transplant Services at Memorial will host the seventh annual 5K Transplant Run/Walk in Washington Park. Proceeds from the event benefit the transplant patient assistance fund, which provides patients like Gerald with financial assistance for medication and other medical needs that may arise during or after a transplant.

An estimated 360 people participated in last year’s event, including transplant recipients, living donors and families of deceased donors. The six previous runs raised a combined total of $82,000.

Gerald said he plans to attend this year’s event.

“The fundraiser is really pretty important,” he said, “and it’s a great opportunity to get the word out to people to sign up to be an organ donor.”

Want to participate?

Registration is now open via paper form or online at To be guaranteed a T-shirt, the registration deadline is Aug. 29. Participants also can register in person beginning at 7 a.m. the day of the event. The registration fee is $20 for adults and $10 for 12-year-olds and younger.

Life Goes On, which promotes organ donations, will be on hand to encourage people to sign up as organ donors.  The Red Wigglers, featuring Marc Garfinkel, MD, will perform at the event. Dr. Garfinkel is surgical director of Memorial’s transplant program and is an associate professor with the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine’s Division of General Surgery.