Archive for August, 2010

David Keiser became ill 12 years ago and thought he might just have a bug.

“My body was out of whack, I thought I had the flu,” said Keiser.

It wasn’t the flu; David’s kidneys were failing and he needed a kidney transplant. He and his wife, Diane, had taken their chew-happy pup Bo to a trainer named Sam Kabbel. When Sam heard that Bo’s daddy needed a kidney transplant, she wanted to help.

“I’ve called her a saint, I’ve called her our savior, I’ve called her superwoman. Words can’t describe what you feel like when someone offers to save your husband’s life,” said Diane.

“How do you thank someone like that other than just taking care of the kidney, living a long happy life,” said Keiser.

Twelve years later, both of Sam’s kidneys are going strong, in two locations, and Bo has resolved his chewing issues, too. Congrats to all.

Marcus Balters is a surgeon, who recently needed a kidney transplant after years of heart and kidney issues. His brother, Matt, stepped up to the plate to donate one of his kidneys.

With dry humor, Matt recalls the conversation last fall this way. His brother said, “Remember when you told me you’d donate a kidney if I needed it?”

“I remember thinking to myself, ‘I never said anything like that. That conversation must have slipped my mind.’”

But there was no decision to mull over. Marcus needed a kidney, and Matt would provide it.

And so he did, in July. Matt continues his own struggle against chronic depression. Which is so hard because the treatment is to try one thing and then another until something works. So far, nothing has worked.

So … Matt, way to do a really great thing for your brother. And hang in there with the depression. New treatments come out all the time; you are not the depression, and the depression is not you. There is hope.

A kidney transplant swap recently brought together Satish and Ashalata Sapkale, and Farzana and Nadeem Inhonvi.

Each woman was willing to donate a kidney to her husband but was not a match. They signed up for a paired donation list at their transplant center in India, and doctors began working out a kidney swap: Ashalata would donate a kidney to Nadeem, and in exchange, Farzana would give a kidney to Satish.

“It’s great to see how four people can come together and help save two lives. We are lucky we found a match and my brother could get a new kidney. We were just two families who could help each other, differences of religion were never on either of our minds,” said Satish’s brother Uday Sapkale, 38.

Great news. Congratulations to all!

Kim Vargas has had kidney trouble for years, caused by lupus. Her mom, Meleia Sanders, wanted to donate a kidney but at first, Kim said no.

“But she turned it around and said I would do it for (my kids) Keeton and Mia, and she was right.”

And so, Meleia flew to Colorado to be Kim’s living kidney donor.

“We had about one week to get our ducks in a row — everything turned into a whirlwind as soon as we got that call,” she said. “We had to get ready and fly out to Denver right away.”

Kim is nearly speechlessly grateful.

“I don’t know [if] there is a way you could completely show your gratitude,” she said.

Brandi Kirkpatrick is a teacher at a school, where she learned that a parent of a student was in need of a kidney transplant. Gwen McNair-Riley had been on the transplant list for five years before last week’s kidney transplant. From Brandy.

“I can’t believe we only had surgery two days ago,” said Kirkpatrick. “I feel fine thanks to a new laparoscopic noninvasive procedure.”

Yeah, that laparoscopic surgery is some good stuff. I was out of the hospital the next day, and shopping the day after that.

Through tears of joy, McNair sobbed,” She has given me the gift of life for sure! I will now be able to travel, get full time work, and work on my degree.”


Now, about the supposed rarity of interracial kidney transplants, as noted in this article, regular readers here have seen any number of stories about someone donating a kidney to someone of another race. My own living kidney donation was to a man of another race.

It isn’t hard to match someone of another race. We don’t have black blood or white blood or Latino blood, as this article might lead you to believe. Antibodies that can nix a match have nothing to do with the color of your skin. But sure, the more alike you are to the person who receives your kidney, the less the chance of rejection.

Congrats to Brandi and Gwen; though their transplant situation is hardly “rare,” it is beautiful.

Worth knowing if you are considering being a living kidney donor: African American and Latino kidney donors have a higher incidence of hypertension, diabetes and chronic kidney disease, post-donation. And African American and Latino people in general have a higher incidence of those conditions, so I guess it makes sense.

Researchers say that while these findings should not be used to discourage anyone from donating … these factors should be taken into consideration when counseling potential donors about their future health risks.

Yeah, so take a closer look at your pre-kidney donation test results and your family history, and see what the risk is for you. I took all my test results to my personal physician to get a second opinion before I donated a kidney. It definitely gave me peace of mind to share the information with someone who knew my body better than the kidney transplant team did.

Flavia and Bill Walton were part of a very large kidney swap, involving 14 donor-recipient pairs.

“To see someone that you love most [in] the world deteriorate is a sense of helplessness and powerlessness that you just cannot comprehend unless you’ve been there. But to be able to do something is so empowering, but it is such a blessing,” says Flavia.

And good for them. These swaps are bringing healthy kidneys from living donors to patients. Kidneys from living donors are less likely to fail and tend to last twice as long as kidneys from deceased donors.

Kidney swaps bring donors to the table who in all likelihood would never have donated a kidney otherwise. Yet the expert in this article says that he worries swaps will push people on the list farther down and make them wait longer.

“We at least want to be fair with the people on the wait list who don’t have a family member available. Being fair might mean waiting a trivial extra amount of time, but we certainly don’t want to make those people wait years extra just because of the swap arrangements,” says Professor Robert Veatsch of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University.

It doesn’t seem like there is an ethical issue here. If the donors in a chain donation are all friends and relatives of kidney patients, everyone gets a kidney from someone who was probably never going to be an altruistic donor for a stranger on the UNOS list.

And a lot of swaps start with an altruistic donor, who in theory, could have gone to the next person on the official list and donated there. But what happens in swaps that begin with a stranger is that a kidney at the other end of the chain does go to someone on the list.

Veatsch, whom I don’t mean to pick on, raises another very typical ethical concern about kidney donation, that compensation such as a tax break “taints altruism.”

I don’t feel tainted when I deduct my donation to a charity. How is a tax break for donating an organ any different?

It is important to think through the ethics of what we do, but our primary ethical obligation is to save lives and get out of the way of people who would like to do it. I am hoping that as we sort through these new ways to get an organ, that happens more and more.

After a relative received a bone marrow transplant, Pamela Deufrene began thinking about becoming a living kidney donor. She headed over to and really related to Renee Tricarico, who lost her kidney function to PKD.

In the video accompanying the article linked above, she notes that being a donor is a great feeling and that it is an opportunity to help not only the kidney recipient but also that person’s entire family, as her family was helped by a bone marrow transplant.

Their surgery was earlier this week. Awesome.

Oncology nurse Kristy Hill loved the way Pedro Rivera, a phlebotomist at her hospital, took time to make her patients feel better. When she found out that he needed a kidney transplant, she wanted to be tested.

“I saw Pedro as someone who was a blessing to the people around him,” she said. “I want to help him live a longer, happier life.”

Pedro was pretty surprised.

“I thought she was crazy,” Rivera recalled. “But I could tell by her face she was very serious.”

Their transplant took place earlier this week. Congrats to both!

Adorable 12-year-old Ellie Cook is feeling so much better after a kidney transplant ended three years of dialysis, thanks to her uncle Mark Wallis.

“Ellie is like a different child because she is just like a normal kid now. Without blowing my own trumpet, I am extremely proud of what I did and now I am just thrilled to bits for her.

“It’s not only because it is making Ellie better but it has also given my sister and her son Jamie their life back because they were tied to a machine.”

Ellie is a girl of few words.

“I don’t know what I would say to my uncle but just a big thank you and that it is something I will never forget.”

Congrats to all.