TriStar Health - October 02, 2017

Dana (left) and Robert Reed

A living kidney donation from his son gave Dana Reed a second chance at life.

For three years, Dana Reed patiently waited to receive the gift of life. He’s one of the lucky ones – 22 people die every day while waiting for a transplant, according to the United Network of Organ Sharing. Upwards of 116,000 people are currently waiting on the national organ transplant list, many of whom aren’t as lucky as Dana.

Dana suffered from renal failure, a condition that causes the kidneys to stop functioning the way they should, and required routine dialysis to filter his blood of harmful waste, excess salt and water. Although dialysis works as a treatment, kidney transplant is the only cure.

Finding an organ donor is a daunting challenge. Many people rely on deceased donations, but these are hard to come by. During his time on the donation list, Dana was notified three different times that he would receive a kidney from an anonymous donor. Each time, the donation fell through.

“It was devastating. In the back of your mind and your heart, it hurts,” Dana said. “I know what it feels like to be so close to having something and watch it fall through. I was so close, and I had to get right back in that dialysis chair.”

The Living Option

Living donation is an alternative that often delivers the needed organ to the recipient earlier in the disease process, when transplantation is often more successful.

But living donation is fraught with its own set of complications. Asking a loved one to donate an organ can be uncomfortable. If family members are willing to donate, determining compatibility for a kidney requires numerous tests to identify a match, and not all family members meet the strict requirements.

Dana’s son Robert was willing to donate one of his kidneys to his father – and he was a perfect match.

“I would do anything to help my dad,” Robert said.

But Dana was conflicted. Robert’s wife was born with only one kidney, and Dana feared that she would need a kidney someday, so he refused the couple’s offer. Dana also didn’t want to put his son through the hardship of surgery.

However, Robert and his wife were persistent. Eventually, Dana gave in and accepted his son’s offer to donate one of his kidneys.

The two underwent kidney transplant surgery at TriStar Centennial Medical Center on May 7, 2015.

One of their preoperative appointments coincided with TriStar Centennial’s annual Donate Life ceremony.

“We were able to be part of the celebration, which was impactful to witness just before our surgeries,” Dana recalled. “I remember after surgery, Robert stood up to look out the window and see the Donate Life flag waving. That meant a lot to him.”

Following the procedure, Dana and Robert made complete recoveries with no complications. Both are thankful for their support groups, which are anchored by Glennis – Dana’s wife and Robert’s mother.

“Glennis is the strongest person I know – she had to watch her husband and her son go under the knife at the same time,” Dana said. “She was never worried because she had faith it was going to be alright. She knew the last thing that someone undergoing a kidney transplant needed was someone fretting on the sideline.”

Life Lessons

Now that he has recovered, Dana is also thankful he no longer has to worry about the simple things, like drinking a glass of water – something he was unable to do for the three years he was on dialysis.

“Dialysis was tough,” Dana said. “People could look at me and not even tell I was sick. My family would call and send pictures of events, but I couldn’t be there. I’ll be honest, I cried many times. But, I didn’t let that stop me. I am a preacher, and I didn’t miss a Wednesday or Sunday of church. I couldn’t just sit there and be held captive by this process.”

Dana considers himself blessed because of his son’s selfless actions. He is also appreciative of the time he spent on dialysis because it made him a stronger person.

“I look at this way: I called my dialysis machine Esther,” Dana said. “Queen Esther saved people and my Esther helped save me.”

Dana’s experience has equipped him with advice for people waiting for a kidney donation.

“Don’t wait for the organ to live your life,” Dana said. “The organ will not make your life. The organ will only enhance your life. It is up to you to choose how to live.”