Stevie Wonder to Have Kidney Transplant in the Fall

July 08, 2019

Soul singer Stevie Wonder told concertgoers that he is to have a kidney transplant in the fall, following a gig in London's Hyde Park on Saturday night.

After closing his set with a performance of "Superstition," Wonder told fans: "I'm going to be doing three shows then taking a break. I'm having surgery. I'm going to have a kidney transplant at the end of September this year. I have a donor and it's all good."

Wonder added that he was keen to quash "rumors" about his health.

And during the evening, he kept stopping between songs to thank fans for their support over the years, according to @steviewonderlegacy, an Instagram fan page dedicated to the singer.

Medscape Medical News contributor and nephrologist F. Perry Wilson, MD, MSCE, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, said: "It's incredibly brave for a celebrity like Stevie Wonder to be open about his personal health. Kidney disease is often under-represented in the national dialogue about chronic diseases, and I am sure this will bring more attention to the issue."

Raising Awareness of Need for Donors and, in Particular, Living Donors

Shining a light on this topic is "crucial," says Wilson, as "there are over 100,000 people waiting for kidney transplants in the United States right now." But fewer than 20,000 per year actually receive a transplant, he stressed. 

And, as Wonder mentioned, he has found a donor. "It sounds like he will be receiving a living kidney transplant," Wilson added.

"Raising awareness for living donation is a huge thing, as this is the largest potential pool for new donors. I hope this will lead more individuals to consider living donation."

The Strain of Dialysis

The @steviewonderlegacy Instagram fan page applauded Wonder for his "triumphant set," but also notes, "he did seem less ebullient than in the past and made his health announcement in a somber tone with a severe look on his face."

It is not known whether Wonder, who is 69, is on dialysis, although press reports have speculated he might be.

Undergoing dialysis is a huge burden, as detailed in a recent article published online in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, as reported by Medscape Medical News.

Focusing on those aged 65 years and older, the study examined how patients with end-stage renal disease fared within months of starting dialysis. After 6 months' follow-up, just 2% of patients had received a kidney transplant and almost half experienced decline in functional status (40%) or died (8%); 34% remained stable and 18% improved.

In an accompanying patient voice editorial, Daniel Abel, who was younger than 40 years when his own kidneys failed, observed, "It is not just the elderly who feel the effects of kidney failure and dialysis."

"To say that starting saying dialysis is like being hit by a silent freight train barely begins to describe the magnitude of the changes that take place physically and emotionally with the failure of one's own kidneys," he added.

Abel was lucky enough to receive a kidney from his sister. "The transplant was transformational and gave me my life back, a testament to the lack of functional restoration provided by dialysis alone," he concluded.

Stevie Wonder will perform in Dublin on July 9.

Wilson has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

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