Brett Alkan found a kidney donor through Facebook and it appears he is on the, ahem, cutting edge of a trend (sorry!).
The day after I interviewed the future transplant recipient, NPR aired a story on trends in organ donation. These include adding donation status to your Facebook profile and an increasing public interest in compensating live donors, which is currently illegal.
Brett’s page was set up by his oldest son, Nicholas, a Northwest Yeshiva High School senior.
Diagnosed with congenital Polycystic Kidney Disease at age 12, Brett knew he’d need a kidney eventually.
“I got on the transplant list two years ago,” he explains, but an initial handful of volunteer donors didn’t qualify. “We just weren’t getting anybody across the finish line.”
Then in January a local news story told of a Seattle man who found a kidney donor through Facebook.
“I toyed with the idea,” says Brett, “but I just didn’t want to be known…as the kidney disease guy,” preferring to be known as “a good father…or husband, or… citizen.”
It’s also awkward to ask for such a demanding gift.
Nicholas, however, “went ahead and did it without asking me.” Brett confesses he was more relieved than mad.
The page got a “huge response,” including one from Kari Alexander, his daughter’s former Girl Scout troop leader who wasn’t close to the family, but she knew them.
“Most donors want to know who the recipient is,” explains Brett.
Kari got tested and she was an excellent match!
As he awaits surgery, Brett says his main goal is to stay off dialysis, which has “a significant impact” on the life of a kidney. These days he feels “more like my 80-year-old father” as he contends with the joint and muscle pain, fatigue and anemia that come with kidney failure. He does work limited hours in his family’s property management business and, while he and Nicholas climbed Mt. Rainier four years ago, he’s happy now if he can walk the dog once a week.
“I’m blessed with a father and brother…and a good crew,” supporting him at work and wife Ellen and two younger kids, Lauren, 14, and Jonathan, 16, supporting him at home. Those two are awaiting their own trip up our state’s iconic mountain.
“If everything goes well, I will be climbing Mt. Rainier next summer,” Brett says.
Nicholas and Jonathan — members of the Jewish Federation’s teen tzedakah J-Team group — advocated successfully for J-Team to take part in and raise money for the Oct. 9 Seattle PKD walk. (None of the Alkan kids have been tested, but each has a 50 percent chance of having PKD.)
And, dear readers, if you have not yet done so, please designate yourself an organ donor on your driver’s license, and let your family know of your wishes.
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Jon Wells, author of "Shipwrecked," left, talks with Mariners second baseman Dustin Ackley. (Photo: Matt Brignall)
Seattle Mariners fans, those die-hard loyalists, are probably familiar with Jon Wells’s independent program “The Grand Salami,” sold outside the stadium on game days.
Now he has written “Shipwrecked” (Epicenter), a book that chronicles years of management decisions that have led the franchise from distinction to mediocrity — from having Buhner, Rodriguez and Griffey on one team in 1999 to a 20-25 record as of this writing.
Jon always wanted to write a book.
“My hope was someday the Mariners would make it to the World Series and I’d write about [it],” he says. “But how long could I wait for that?”
The Mariners haven’t made that objective despite many great players, “because their owners’ relentless passion for the bottom line has repeatedly undercut chances for success on the field,” he believes.
Released on April 1, Shipwrecked has had a positive response from reviewers, sportswriters and the public. Jon is already a veteran of numerous appearances at book signings and readings, as well as on TV and radio.
“I’ve had some great conversations” with fans, he says, and there are “a lot of passionate fans in this area, even if our team hasn’t been doing well.”
Raised in upstate New York, Jon has lived in New Jersey, Manhattan and California, where he worked as an entertainment lawyer in the music industry. After the Northridge earthquake of 1994 he decided he’d had enough of California. “I was doing a lot of travelling” and saw a lot of nice places, but thought Seattle “was incredible.”
Aside from going to all Mariners’ home games, plus a few away games, Jon is a red wine enthusiast and a football fan who retains an interest in independent music. He lives in West Seattle with his wife and their two dogs.
Jon will be at the at Renton’s Fairwood Library June 7 at 7 p.m., the West Seattle Barnes & Noble June 16 at noon and the Northgate Barnes & Noble on June 30 at 11 a.m. More events are listed at