Lance Moritz has known for most of his life he would need a kidney transplant.
Born with tuberous sclerosis, which causes benign tumors to grow on organs, the 19-year-old who farms with his family in Streator is used to being in and out of hospitals for various surgeries, including pancreatic, spine and brain surgeries.
Doctors have monitored Moritz’s kidney function since he was 7 following renal bypass surgery to restore blood flow to one kidney. About a month ago, his family learned Moritz’s kidneys were functioning at only 10-12%.
Dialysis will help, but the time had come — Moritz moved from being on the inactive transplant list to the active transplant list, meaning doctors are actively searching for a kidney from a deceased donor.
With 100,000 people on that same list, the wait could be years.
Now, the Illinois Valley Community College student is asking the public to consider donating a kidney. He made his plea on Facebook, sharing his story:
“My medical history has been a challenge over the past 19 years of my life, but it has also made me a stronger person. My passion is in the agriculture industry, and my favorite places are when I am outside, working in the shop, and operating equipment to work ground and plant fields,” he wrote. “These are traits and skills I want to be able to pass onto my children when the time comes. I want to be able to be there for my family and lend the help when needed. But sadly, 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.”
Students with Taylorville School District’s Tommy TV created a video shared on multiple platforms, while Lance’s community college published a story picked up by local media.
As word spread, Lance’s mother, Mary, said she learned several people volunteered to be tested through OSF Transplant Services.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t a match.
Lance, an agronomy major who plans to continue working on the family farm and assist with the family’s local trucking business upon graduation, struggled with school early on, but with his family’s support, tutors and school programs that allowed him flexibility due to medical absences, he’s now enjoying college. With the ongoing pandemic coupled with his health issues, Lance participates in his in-person classes via Zoom.
His parents, Illinois Farm Bureau members Mary and Jeff Moritz, didn’t want to exclude Lance from activities due to his health problems.
“We decided not to let him live in a bubble,” Mary said, adding Lance played football and baseball, joined the swim team and 4H. “He couldn’t wait to get to FFA.”
Winning several state awards and being named twice a National FFA finalist, the fourth-generation La Salle County farmer is an accomplished FFA member who’s excited just to be planting or harvesting corn and soybeans on his family’s 2,600 acres or chatting with his dad about the farm’s seeding and fertilizer plans. The city of Streator acknowledged Lance’s FFA accomplishments by erecting several signs with his name and awards.
From his toddler years, Lance has been drawn to farming; same for his 12-year-old sister Jenna, who loves showing her 4-H pigs.
“Ever since I was young, just being out there, riding in the equipment was always my favorite place to be. When I got to be 14 or 15, I was running equipment and now I get turned loose to work 120 acres, and I get a list of things to do,” he said.
Missing some family gatherings and time out in the field is difficult, but Lance remains optimistic.
“Yes, (my health has) affected things, … but on the farm side of things, if I’m not able to be there to do something, at least I can be there sometimes,” he said, adding he’s grateful to start dialysis in the coming weeks. Doctors recently inserted a catheter so Lance can undergo at-home dialysis at night while he’s sleeping, versus visiting a center several times a week.
Fortunately Lance never experienced the more common symptoms of tuberous sclerosis — severe development delays and multiple seizures a day.
Lance acknowledged how frightening donating a kidney can be, especially to a stranger.
“But it can be rewarding in many ways also. You will get to live with the thought that you gave someone else a second chance in life, and you were there to help build their future for a great healthy life,” he wrote on Facebook. “I have been dealt these odd cards since the day I was born, but I haven’t let them stop me.”
This story was distributed through a cooperative project between Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Press Association. For more food and farming news, visit FarmWeekNow.com.