Therapist waits for kidney transplant
by Staff Writer
MOORESVILLE – Jeffrey Rifkin needs a kidney.
As a marriage and family therapist at Lakeside Family Physicians, he wants to continue helping couples stay together. As a father of four, he wants to live to see his children grow up and get married.
Rifkin, 64, of Indian Trail, has polycystic kidney disease, a genetic anomaly that claimed the lives of his mother and a couple of cousins. His sister has it. So does his oldest daughter.
“To be honest, I thought for sure that I would escape it, given my lifestyle,” Rifkin said.
Before his diagnosis 15 years ago, Rifkin was active in bodybuilding, hiking, martial arts and doing things with his kids. He also was a vegetarian. None of that mattered.
His health has deteriorated over the years. Rifkin now experiences constant fatigue and nausea.
“I have severe leg cramping that will wake me up – sometimes four or five times a night to the point where it actually makes me weep,” Rifkin said. “It feels like my bones are being crushed.”
Rifkin said he has been on a waiting list for a kidney transplant for about 14 months. In the meantime, he visits a dialysis center in Charlotte three times a week.
“I do that for three hours and it wipes me out because it’s a more harsh form of dialysis,” Rifkin said. “The bottom line is you can’t do dialysis for the rest of your life because it’s very harsh on your system.”
Dialysis serves as an intervention while patients wait for an available kidney, according to Lisa McCanna, assistant vice president of transplant services at Carolinas Medical Center.
At Carolinas Medical Center, the median wait time for a kidney transplant is 25.5 months, McCanna said. The length of time depends on the patient’s blood type and antibody characteristics.
Carolinas Medical Center has 766 people on the waiting list to receive a kidney transplant, with 448 of those listed as active, meaning they are healthy and ready to transplant.
Kidney transplants may come from living or deceased donors, though patients receiving donations from living donors tend do better, McCanna said.
Living organ donors are put through a rigorous medical screening.
“We don’t want someone to give this gift and have health problems,” McCanna said. “We want to make sure they are not at risk for developing kidney problems and they are good candidates for surgery.”
Since Rifkin went on a waiting list, his doctors contacted him about a potential match, but that fell through. He has a B blood type, which isn’t the most common. He can accept type B and type O blood.
“Of course, my hopes really got dashed, and I had to fight off some degree of depression,” he said. Yet, Rifkin remains hopeful he’ll get a new kidney. He credits faith in God and devotion to his family for pushing through the painful wait.
He and his wife, Amanda, have four children, ages 31, 25, 15 and 13.
“When my son asks me, ‘Dad are you going to die before you get a kidney?’ I say, ‘Absolutely not. I will be here. Do not worry.’”
About Jeffrey Rifkin
Jeffrey Rifkin works as a therapist at Lakeside Family Physicians in Mooresville.
His specialty is solution-focused therapy, in which he helps clients focus on probable solutions rather than problems. He’s spent much of his career in Florida.
Rifkin moved to Huntersville in 2007. Last month, his family moved to Indian Trail to be closer to their children’s school, Grace Academy, in Matthews.
Want to help?
Anyone interested in donating a kidney may call the Transplant Center at Carolinas Medical Center, 704-355-6649. Anyone who would like to help Jeffrey Rifkin by making tax-deductible donations may go to www.transplants.org and type in his name.