Tucson man, family hope kidney transplant is in the cards

Moving to Arizona may have gotten Jim Piccirillo closer to finding a living donor

Tucson man, family hope kidney transplant is in the cards

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - It’s all muscle memory for Jim Piccirillo by this point.

A poke and a pump six times a day.

“I’ve been injecting that needle for 50 years," said Piccirillo, who’s been diabetic since he was 13 years old.

(Source: KOLD News 13)

The most important number in his life right now is five -- the number of years he’s been waiting for a new kidney.

“It’s a slow decline,” he said. “A little bit at a time you go down in functionality. By the time you get to 10 percent kidney functionality, you are on dialysis.”

Piccirillo also suffers from Diabetic Retinopathy, a diabetes complication which is caused by damage to the blood vessels in the tissue at the back of the eye.

“In the early 90s, I lost all of my vision in my right eye and most of the vision in my left,” he said.

Piccirillo and his wife Judy started their search for a kidney donor five years ago while living in Connecticut.

The couple moved to Arizona a year ago, not knowing it may have pushed them higher up on the wait list.

“It seemed like we were hearing people were getting kidneys pretty quickly here, like some people within six months,” Judy said.

The American Transplantation Foundation estimates 20 people die every day from a lack of available organ transplants. A person is added to the wait list every 10 minutes, according to the ATF.

But so much of this process depends on supply and demand, as well as the part of the country a candidate lives in.

Jim Piccirillo, of Tucson, has been waiting five years for a kidney transplant.
Jim Piccirillo, of Tucson, has been waiting five years for a kidney transplant. (Source: KOLD News 13)

According to Health Testing Centers, Arizona comes in at No. 9 for states with the longest wait times. Around 15 percent of people are waiting for at least five years for organ donations, whether it is kidney, heart, etc.

Connecticut sits at No. 6 with around 17 percent of people waiting for at least five years for a transplant. The state with the highest percent is Alabama, with 30 percent waiting at least five years.

“Arizona is doing a lot more, some where around three times as many as Harford," Jim said.

The gap between 15 and 17 percent doesn’t sound like much, but it can be the difference between life and death.

That is especially with 6,000 new registered donors here in Arizona in 2019 alone, according to the Donor Network of Arizona.

From June 2018 to May 2019, 291,000 people became new registered donors in Arizona compared to 285,000 in 2018.

(Source: KOLD News 13)

Still, Jim and Judy aren’t staying idle.

“Wherever we go she has the harness that has the sign on it,” he said.

Jim’s guide dog Bina and his business cards all share his plea, hoping to get the word out any way they can.

“I put them up at Starbucks and various places, whenever I see a cork board where people put their business cards up on," Judy said.

There hasn’t been a successful response yet, but Jim said he hasn’t given up hope.

“I’m hopeful," he said. "It’s part of the adventure.”

According to the Organ Procurement & Transplantation Network, more than 95,000 people in the US need a kidney, the most common organ needed.

If you are interested in helping Jim please call the Banner Transplant Team at 520-694-6241

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