Sunday, April 13, 2008

One year

Grandpa Russ, one year later
Samuel, Jonathan, Clinton, and our heroine - Jean
Maggie Kay, Julia, Hazel
Susi, Wanda, Dad, Mama
Luke, Julia & Hazel, Maggie Kay, Samuel, Tony, Jean's head, Jon, Clinton, Susi, Wanda

Just over a year ago, my father-in-law made what is believed medical history. He and a family friend became the oldest known donor/recipient kidney transplant on record! Dad had steadily been having kidney failure and was doing dialysis at home, three times a day, but things were still getting worse. Because of his age (83), he wasn't an "ideal candidate" for a transplant. However, a dear family friend, knowing she had the same blood type, volunteered a kidney, if everything would be a match -- and if they would allow her (she was 84). It was, and after lots of testing and even more prayer, the surgery was scheduled...and a success!

We celebrated God's blessings on our family last night with a meal and singing at the farm.
Following is an article that appeared in our local paper a while back on their story. We are so thankful for Jean's selfless generosity...

At 84, Ballard is oldest female kidney donor
James Bordewick Park Rapids Enterprise

Published Friday, October 12, 2007

Longtime family friends Russ Carter and Jean Ballard now share more than inside jokes: both of them are using the same set of kidneys.
Jean donated her kidney to Russ earlier this year.
“I didn’t want him to quit singing,” Jean joked.

The friends of 54 years went through the operation April 11. The donation is considered remarkable given the age of the patients.
“My doctor told me I was the oldest woman in the US to donate a kidney,” said Jean.
Lifelong friends
Russ and Jean both moved to the area from southwest Michigan in 1953. The two met while doing mission work together.
The two continued to visit each other over five decades.
When Jean found out about Russ’s kidney failure and subsequent peritoneal dialysis, she saw the opportunity to perform a good deed for her good friend.
“Well, I’m listed as an organ donor on both my driver’s license and in my living will,” Jean explained.
She added she often heard of younger people in need of a kidney and wished she could do something to help out.
Jean offered Russ her kidney after prospective donors, including family members, failed to provide a match.
She said she prayed over the decision during the process.
“I placed it before God,” she said, adding she took the compatibility tests and doctor’s approval as a sign to proceed.
Initially, when Jean offered Russ her kidney, he said he was a bit reluctant to take her up on the offer.
“I was kind of hesitant about it,” Russ said. “I thought I was getting along fine without it.”
But their friendship over more than 50 years gave Russ a lot of confidence in her, he said.
“If she thinks we should do it, it’s a good indication,” he said.
Breaking barriers
Doctors at MeritCare in Fargo exercised extra caution before the procedure, because the pair were the oldest combined donor and recipient in the world.
But Dr. Bargav Mistry, director of transplants at MeritCare, said recent medical advances are opening new doors for organ donors and recipients.
“One has to look at the progress that’s been made,” he said. “Basically, we are breaking new barriers.”
According to Mistry, 20 years ago, doctors were reluctant to perform transplants on patients over 50.
“With improvements in the field, we no longer look at age as a barrier,” said Mistry.
Now, he explained, the physiological age of the patients plays a larger role in receiving and donating organs.
Doctors now evaluate the current health of patients to predict a positive outcome.
Both Jean and Russ underwent a thorough evaluation before the operation They received general, kidney, cardiac, psychological and social evaluations to ensure the procedure had a high chance of success.
Russ as a potential recipient had a higher probability of success than some people in their 20s or 30s, Mistry said.
Debate still exists in the medical community over age limits on recipients, Mistry added, but he defended Russ’ right to an operation.
“If people have a right to health care, transplants should be no exception,” he reasons.
Mistry also pointed out the similar ages of the pair counter arguments about “wasting” organs. “Most likely the kidney of an 80-year old would not last another 30 or 40 years,” he said, making Jean’s donation less suitable for a younger recipient.
“If we can give a good life to Russ, that’s the point of the operation,” he said.
The road to recovery
Jean’s operation to remove the kidney started around 7 a.m. April 11 and lasted about two hours.
She joked the transplant began two hours later, “after they yanked it out, cleaned it off and cleaned up.”
Russ remained in Fargo for several weeks afterward to undergo tests. Medical examinations revealed his creatin count, used to measure kidney effectiveness, did not level off after the surgery.
Doctors later discovered one artery leading to the kidney was constricted. A follow-up surgery corrected the issue.
“Immediately, I felt better,” he said.
Jean said, “My stamina is not quite up to par yet, but it’s coming along very well.”
Jean and Russ both credited a network of support for their recovery.
“People all over the world were praying for us and our success,” said Russ.
The two remain light-hearted about their future after the surgery.
“In the future, her kidney could fail,” Russ mentioned.
“Well, I would just ask for my other one back,” kidded Jean.


precious grandma said...

What a beautiful story! What a wonderful testimony of God's love for us and the blessings He provides. What an unselfish proof of true friendship! It's hard to believe that a year has gone by since the surgery(s). Thankful both are doing well. Praise God, the master physician for his goodness!

precious grandma said...

PS: Did you decorate the cake? Looks really great!

Martha said...

Very interesting! I didn't know all this. I'm glad to see that he's still doing well at the one year mark.