Tierra's Dan Krinsky needs a donor

Dan Krinsky's voice is deep, and when he speaks it sounds as if he is running up stairs, out of breath. "I feel tired all of the time," said Krinsky, chef-owner of Tierra, along with Ticha, his wife of 14 years.

The two have managed their restaurant, which specializes in the area's best pan-Latin cuisine, as a dynamo duo for the past 10 years, sharing the duties in the kitchen and the front of the house equally with a one-week-on, one-week-off schedule. When Dan is in the kitchen, Ticha works out front, and vice versa, both as versatile as maitre d's as they are chefs.

But lately, they've had to move to a different schedule. Dan suffers from PKD, or polycystic kidney disease, a genetic disorder that causes cysts to develop on the kidneys. Over time these cysts fill with fluid and engorge, eventually causing complete kidney failure. Because he feels tired more often than usual, he and Ticha split duties between days now, not weeks. "On my days off I do nothing but lie in bed, resting," Krinsky said.

He has been quietly suffering with the disease for several years, telling only the closest of his customers. But anyone who sees him these days knows something is wrong: in addition to exhaustion, Krinsky's pallor is off. So is his palate, he says, the uric acid building up in his system making it hard to distinguish acidic flavors anymore. "I need Ticha to taste for me these days," he quips.

What Krinsky needs is a kidney. He starts dialysis in two weeks, and is on the donor list for a cadaver organ. "But I need a living organ," he explains, "because a cadaver organ will more than likely have to be replaced in several years, and since my blood is type O, it's unlikely I'll get to the top of the list anytime soon."

Krinsky's dilemma is a Catch-22: his blood is the most common type for an easy match, but because of that the pool of organ recipients is much larger, and only the sickest get to the top of the list.

"Unfortunately I'll have to get much more sick before I'm eligible," he said. He's had three people come forward in his circle of friends (one of whom is an employee), but none proved an appropriate match for donation. Requirements for becoming a living donor are not as arduous as they once were — basically a person needs to be of good health, between the ages of 18 and 70, and have the same blood type (or type O) as the recipient. The process is easier, too, since most kidney transplant surgeries are done through laparoscopy these days. Recovery time is usually about two weeks.

The Krinskys met at a wedding where Dan was a member of the wedding party. "It was a 'who's that?' kind of thing for us both," said Ticha, who was born in Mexico but raised in El Salvador. In 1999, they opened Tierra together.

The focus of the food has always been pan-Latin, and the two trek to South America yearly to spend time researching the continent's gastronomy. This year, though, they will be going to Pauley's Island for a family trip, since Dan will more than likely not be well enough for long air travel.

The couple isn't sure what the future holds for them at this point. Tierra is still running smoothly for now, and so far Dan has been able to maintain his work schedule. "But I don't want to overburden Ticha," he said. "And I've still got a lot of cooking I want to do. I'm not done."

If you or someone you know would like to help the Krinskys through live organ donation, please email them at danneedsakidney@gmail.com, visit their blog at blog /a> at or call them directly at the restaurant, 404-874-5951. For more information about living transplants, go to www.gatransplant.org or call the Georgia Transplant Foundation at 866-428-9411.

Get into the conversation: Visit my blog at www.ajc.com/tabletalk. If your restaurant is new, closing or undergoing changes, or you have a food-related event, we want to hear from you. Send the information — including your name, phone number, e-mail and Web site if you have one — to mford@ajc.com.

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