Advocacy is about making a difference, whether it is changing the life of a patient one on one or changing the life of a patient by impacting policy. Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing stories of several of our patient and practitioner advocates who have made a difference by engaging in policy change. We will show you what a single person can do when they set their mind to achieving change. Our first story is about a practitioner advocate in Oklahoma who heard about what a patient had done in Arkansas, passing their state Living Donor Protection Act, and wanted to do the same in his state.
-Andrew Fullerton, National Kidney Foundation
By Greg Lewis, RN BSN, Director of Pediatric & Adult Dialysis at OU Medicine and Local NKF Board Member
When I learned the National Kidney Foundation was planning to ramp up its presence in Oklahoma, I was ecstatic. As the Director of Pediatric and Adult Dialysis at OU Medicine, I had seen their resources help countless dialysis patients under my care.
I had joined NKF at a The BIG ASK: THE BIG GIVE event the Oklahoma Transplant Center and learned of their Living Donor Protection Act, legislation that had just been passed in Arkansas and advancing in state legislatures across the country, thanks in part to NKF’s advocacy.
Upon hearing the stories of those in need of organ donation and the disturbing stories of living organ donors who had faced insurance discrimination, I knew I wanted to be a part of the effort to secure introduction of this bill in the Oklahoma state legislature.
I’m not a lobbyist, I’m simply a dedicated healthcare professional who cares about my patients and wants to see fairness for all who participate in the life-giving act of living organ donation. I knew I’d need help, so I secured the assistance of our hospital’s lobbyist, Patti Davis.
Patti didn’t event wait for me to finish my pitch before eagerly volunteering her expertise. Around this time, she also transitioned from her role at our hospital to become President of the Oklahoma Hospital Association. Suddenly, kidney advocates in Oklahoma had a champion who was uniquely positioned in a powerful role to affect meaningful change!
The next step was to gather stakeholders from across the state to gain their support. I made sure to include everyone I could think of: transplant centers, LifeShare, local hospital executives and, of course, local and national leaders from NKF who helped rally consensus for us to move forward.
Senator Jason Smalley (R-District 28) happily agreed to serve as the bill’s prime sponsor in the Senate and led the measure to unanimous passage in the upper chamber. Rep. Terry O’Donnell (R-District 23) was our champion in the state House. At his invitation, I testified in support of the bill before the House Insurance Committee. Alongside a transplant surgeon and the mother of a kidney disease patient, I also met individually with members of the committee and the State Insurance Commissioner to make our case for the bill.
I had never stepped food in the state Capitol before, so it was unnerving to say the least, but legislators were receptive to our message. When all was said and done, the bill passed unanimously through both the Insurance Committee and the full House of Representatives.
Within the month, Gov. Kevin Stitt signed the bill and we are planning a huge bill signing celebration – I can’t wait! Sen. Smalley has asked NKF advocates to join the Governor for a photo-op in the days to come and to celebrate the occasion with him on the Senate floor.
It was an honor to play a role in the advancement of this critical policy solution that will hopefully help more Oklahomans to consider the gift of living organ donation. My story is proof you don’t have to be a lobbyist or a politician to affect change, you simply need to show up.
Will you join me in working to enhance kidney disease policies in Oklahoma and around the country?
Please, become an advocate, like me, by emailing the National Kidney Foundation (NKFadvocacy@kidney.org) or writing your federal legislators to ask that Congress follow Oklahoma’s lead by passing protections for living organ donors.