IVCC ag student seeks kidney donor

NOVEMBER 22, 2021

An unusual plea appeared this month on Lance Moritz’s Facebook page, amid the photos of family and farm. He asked for a kidney.

“I am currently in desperate need for a living kidney donor… It has come time to ask for help from my friends, family and community far and near.

“My medical history has been a challenge over the past 19 years, but it has also made me a stronger person. I want to be there for my family and lend the help when needed, but if I can’t receive a kidney, the time may not come. If I am on dialysis waiting, I can’t do these hobbies I love.”

The 19-year-old Illinois Valley Community College agriculture student from Streator made his appeal public after another sharp plunge in his kidney function made treatment urgent and doctors catapulted him to the top of the national organ transplant list. Anything less than 15 percent signifies kidney failure; Lance’s kidneys function at 10-12 percent.

While the national registry isn't a list most people aspire to, Lance’s move from “inactive” status came as a relief to his mother, Mary.

“We’ve known for 13 years he would need a kidney someday. That time is here. When I left the doctor’s office, it felt like a ton of bricks had fallen from my shoulders. That’s not to say I’m not upset; I am. If I could take away (the need), I would. But it’s time,” she said.

Lance’s public plea for a lifesaving transplant drew attention and support and many post shares, but no matching donor yet. A handful of people were tested but ruled out as a match. “It’s awesome to know there are good people out there,” says a grateful Mary.

The national registry expands the field of potential donors. About 100,000 people in the United States are awaiting kidney transplants, and some 23,000 transplants were performed in 2020.

Doctors have closely monitored Lance’s kidney function since he was 8 and he underwent renal bypass surgery to restore blood flow to one kidney. At that time, the other functioned just well enough to keep him alive.

Kidneys keep the blood clean and chemically balanced. When they can’t, that function can be done mechanically by dialysis. Now that he’s had a catheter implanted, Lance can start dialysis any time while he waits for a transplant donor. That was reassuring for a young man who remembers countless holidays spent in hospitals.

“It means I’m covered! I’m guaranteed Thanksgiving and the holidays! It’s there if I need to go on dialysis tomorrow and I won’t have to go get emergency surgery.” He opted for home dialysis performed nightly because it has fewer side effects and lets him still do the things he loves.

And that? “Anything outside. Agriculture. Working on the farm. Planning the upcoming season. Our snow removal business. Mowing lawns. If it’s not hands-on, it’s not for me!” The family farms 2,600 acres around Streator and operates a trucking firm and a lawn-care/snow-removal business.

Mary says they’re hoping to find a living donor. A transplant kidney could come from a deceased donor or a living one. Living donor transplants can function better and run less risk of being rejected. Mary, father Jeff and sister Jenna, 13, haven’t been tested yet because Lance is likely to need a second transplant when he’s older, and one of them could supply a kidney then, Mary said.

The kidney failure was yet another complication in a life filled with surgeries, hospital stays, and medical appointments. Lance was born with a condition which causes benign tumors to grow on his organs and disrupt their function. That’s led to back and brain surgery and other procedures.

 The farm he loves went with him everywhere. Scale-model tractors and trucks helped pass lengthy hospital stays. The family album chronicles his growing from scale models and a pedal tractor to the real thing.

The farm is top-of-mind for him as an ag student, says IVCC agriculture program coordinator Willard Mott.

“He’s always wondering how he can take (the information he learns) back to the family farm,” says Mott. They met when Lance was still in high school, and Mott was impressed immediately. “He’s not outspoken, but he’s genuine. His passion and motivation (about farming) stand out. Farming is in his blood.”

Lance’s drive toward an agriculture degree was no surprise to a family that’s farmed for four generations, and coming from an FFA state champion and national finalist.

With only weeks to go in the semester, Lance is struggling to balance his courses at IVCC with medical visits, but he’s determined to finish. Surgeries have often cut into class time – brain surgery and recovery swallowed half a school year. Patient and supportive instructors and tutoring have helped Lance keep up on his coursework.

“We’ve always dealt with this,” Mary says. Lance “has his days” when the sunny, easy-going demeanor cracks. “But this is a way of life for us, and you figure it out, take it one day at a time, hour by hour.”

“I have been dealt these odd cards since the day I was born,” Lance posted on Facebook, “but I haven’t let them stop me. And I will continue to deal with these cards until God can help me find a living donor.”

DONOR INFO: Lance is working with the OSF Transplant Services, 420 NE Glen Oak Ave., Suite #401 Peoria, IL 61603. Their phone number is 309-624-5433. Information is available at https://www.osfhealthcare.org/services/transplant-services/