Health

Barry-Dickens Kidney Foundation to Relaunch

Kim Dickens, who gave Marion S. Barry one of her kidneys in 2009, plans on restarting the foundation she co-founded with the former D.C. mayor after years of legal wrangling with his widow.

“We are going to relaunch the board of the Marion Barry-Kim Dickens Kidney Foundation in November,” Dickens said. “We have attracted new board members and we are working to have a gala and kidney drive on the 11th anniversary of [me] donating one of my kidneys to Marion on Feb. 20, 2020.”

On Feb. 21, 2009, Barry received one of Dickens’ kidneys in a six-hour surgery that took place at Howard University Hospital in Northwest. Barry needed the transplant once his own kidney began malfunctioning from complications of diabetes and hypertension.

Dr. Clive Callendar, a widely respected surgeon at Howard University Hospital, led the successful transplant. Dickens said Callendar has agreed to continue to serve on the board but she didn’t disclose its other members.

Dickens’ relaunch draws attention to Blacks and kidney donation. Federal data says Blacks comprise 13 percent of the U.S. population but make up nearly 30 percent of the more than 114,000 patients waiting for an organ transplant.

In addition, while Blacks make up 33 percent of those waiting for a kidney and 25 percent of those who want another heart, less than 15 percent of donors living and deceased are African American.

Dickens said the foundation’s ongoing purpose will be to promote kidney health and education.

“We want to educate people about the kidney donation process and how they can become recipients and how they can give,” she said.

She said she also understands that Blacks are wary of interacting with the medical care system, given its history of mistreatment due to racism. Nevertheless, Dickens said African Americans should be aware of the benefits of organ donation.

“A lot of us don’t understand the science of organ donation,” she said. “We have two kidneys but we can be fine with just one. If someone needs a kidney, why not just give up one that’s healthy? You can’t take it with you after you die.

“By giving your kidney, you will be able to help one of your family members or friends who are dealing with diabetes and other diseases,” she said.

Barry supported the foundation until he died in November 2014. Dickens continued the work of the foundation but Barry’s widow, Cora Masters Barry, didn’t approve of the use of her late husband’s likeness and filed a lawsuit in April 2015 in D.C. Superior Court.

Marrel Foushee, who serves as the treasurer for the foundation, said the legal issues are over and didn’t go into details about it. However, Dickens made it clear that Cora Barry has nothing to do with the foundation.

“She is not involved and never has been,” Foushee said.

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