One of the Washington area’s most well-known African American freelance photographers recently disclosed that he has a need for a new kidney and has issued a call for a donor — a situation thousands of people nationally find themselves in.
Maurice Fitzgerald worked as a freelance photographer for The Washington Informer Newspaper for years taking photos of local and national events. The 68-year-old Fitzgerald, who resides in Fort Washington, Maryland, has retired from the federal government and volunteers as the official photographer for the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Peace Walk and Parade held in the District’s Ward 8. Fitzgerald said he wants to continue to his activities.
“I need a kidney to live,” he said. “Somebody should be able to give me one. People have two, they only need one to live. I need to continue to live to spend more time with my family and to perform more service for the community.”
Fitzgerald has joined nearly 92,000 people, according to the American Kidney Fund, who need a kidney transplant. The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) reports 33% of American adults are at risk for kidney disease.
The NKF relays that Black or African Americans are more than three times likely to have kidney failure than whites. The NKF discloses minority populations have much higher rates of high blood pressure, diabetes (of which afflicts Fitzgerald), obesity and heart disease play a major role in the development of kidney disease, along with healthcare access.
Fitzgerald’s Pursuit of a New Kidney
Fitzgerald said he has registered with the National Kidney Register for a transplant.
“I wish more people would donate their kidneys,” he said. “The reason people don’t, I think, is cultural. They live in or subscribe to a culture that frowns on organ giving. But I think people should consider donating their organs. A healthy body has two kidneys, two livers and one heart. You can’t take them with you when you die.”
Fitzgerald said he is listed as an organ donor on his driver’s license.
“I want to let someone else live,” he said.
Fitzgerald said he has changed his diet since he learned he had Type II diabetes. He doesn’t eat red meat regularly and bakes and boils his food.
“I don’t drink sodas but I consume water or iced tea,” Fitzgerald said. “I don’t use artificial sugars. I also eat a lot of steamed vegetables.”
He said people, especially those who are young, should eat healthy and stay away from fast foods.
“Fast food is not good for you,” Fitzgerald said. “Going to McDonald’s should be a treat, not an everyday thing.”
Fitzgerald said he doesn’t use a dialysis machine “and I am thankful for that.” He also advises people to know their family’s medical history, also.
More Organ Donors Are Needed
Fitzgerald’s plight as an African American, along with many others, seeking a kidney transplant is one of the reasons Dr. Clive Callender, a Howard University Medical School professor and surgeon, founded National MOTTEP (Minority Organ Tissue Transplant Education Program) in 1996. National MOTTEP works to increase the number of minority donors and decrease the need for transplants through a health promotion campaign aimed at preventing transplants.
“One of the things I learned early on in my career was that there was a shortage of donors and a complexity in this shortage of donors, and that minorities and African Americans were rarely donors,” Callender, 86, said according to Howard University’s The Dig on August 3, 2021. “I thought this is something I should try to do. So, this became the challenge that I took up.”