This is a continuation of the story of two of my former coworkers at Quark, David Allen who was suddenly diagnosed with end-stage kidney disease and Paul Brown who donated a kidney to David.
On May 14, 2000, David and Paul checked in to the University of Colorado Hospital in Denver for their separate surgeries. In the morning, just prior to the start of surgery, Paul remembers being on a gurney in a hallway outside the operating room after being sedated. He recalls seeing David prior to being rolled into their adjoining operating rooms. Says Paul,
“I think I was making some jokes and he was laughing. But that may have been a hallucination.”
Paul’s donor nephrectomy (kidney removal surgery) was done laparoscopically, which involved a single 5-inch lateral (vertical) incision in his abdomen through which the kidney was extracted and two smaller incision for inserting the instruments and a camera. Once Paul’s kidney was recovered, it was cleaned and taken the operating room where David was already prepped to receive the kidney. Paul’s surgery was completed and he was taken to a post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) a few hours before David’s surgery was finished. Despite completing his surgery first, Paul recalls that he spent more time in post-operative recovery than David before being taken to his room.
“After waking up, the pain was so intense. It was unbelievable. The morphine didn’t help. David and I shared a room. I remember he was already in the room and coherent when I came in. He looked a lot better than me. Pretty soon, they [the hospital staff] wanted us to get up and walk around. It wasn’t a long walk, that’s for sure. Maybe once around the floor. It took us a good ten minutes. A shuffle walk, 3 or 4 inches at a time.”
Paul was out of the hospital after three days and was back to work in two weeks. He continues,
“There’s a big difference between being able to get to work and sit at a desk and getting back to normal. Prior to surgery I was skiing every weekend, hiking, and playing soccer. [When I went in to get tested,] the doctors were quite surprised by how low my pulse was and by my low blood pressure. [After the surgery,] I was really shocked how long it took for me to get back to normal. I didn’t have the lung capacity. It was like I was out of shape. I would say I eventually got back to normal a year later. [Since then,] I haven’t felt limited in any way though.”
Paul says that he’s had a full recovery and that he almost never thinks about his kidney surgery. In fact, he had forgotten the advice to avoid large doses of ibuprofen, which has been linked to kidney toxicity.
“I pulled a muscle and been taking a lot of Advil recently. I went to my doctor and he said, ‘You shouldn’t be taking that. You have a wife and two young kids now. You’ve got to be more careful.’ And wow, it finally hit home that I have to pay attention to this.”
Paul, his wife Julie, and their two daughters. Photo by Paul Brown (using timer)
David’s recovery took about a month and says he felt much better than before his surgery while he was on dialysis. However, he was not fully healthy as the immunosuppressant medication he is required to take to prevent organ rejection made him susceptible to infections. Despite it all, David says he doesn’t know what his life would have been like if Paul hadn’t offered his kidney.
[Update: Removed quote about Paul’s serum creatinine since it is not a health factor for him. More about kidney function after a donation in an Apr 2011 blog post.]