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Sunday August 11, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Sunday August 11, 2013 MYT 12:19:42 PM
by david witte
Miller, 23, suffers from polycystic kidney disease, and is scheduled to receive a kidney from Kelley (left) later this month.
Beau donates kidney to save girlfriend’s life.
THE ticking time bomb in Lindsey Miller hit hard recently, sending her to the hospital and putting her on kidney dialysis.
The 23-year-old Los Banos, Californian woman was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease at age 10. The hereditary disease took her grandfather at 52, her uncle at 34, and her aunt at 27. Lindsey’s mother, Tammie Miller, has been on dialysis since 2010 and needs a kidney as well.
The chances of finding a donor are slim – statistically speaking, one person in Los Banos is a match for Lindsey.
In a fortunate twist of fate, that one person just happens to sit across the dinner table from her every night.
Lindsey’s boyfriend, Brandon Kelley, is an almost perfect match. Kidney transplant surgery is scheduled in a few days at California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) in San Francisco.
“Awesome. It was a sigh of relief,” Kelley said, “just knowing that she’s going to be OK.”
Lindsey and the 25-year-old Kelley met and began dating in early 2011. Lindsey suffered flu-like symptoms in October of that year.
“I went through my adolescence, and I kind of put the disease in the back of my mind,” he said. “I ignored it, because I didn’t feel anything, that anything was wrong with me. I was a normal kid. When I was a teenager, I ignored it.
“It was literally like I got sick one day, and it never went away. It was so bad that I remember one day I thought I was going to die, because I had never felt anything like I felt at that time.”
But Tammie knew the signs. Chief among them is high blood pressure. Other signs include kidney stones, kidney failure, headache, frequent urination, urinary tract or kidney infections, back or side pain, an increase in abdomen size and blood in the urine. She rushed her daughter to the emergency room.
“She was like, ‘That’s it, I don’t want to lose another family member. I need to know what’s wrong with you’,” Lindsey said. “My doctor told me I was very sick, and that I shouldn’t even be alive. He doesn’t know why I’m alive right now. That’s how sick I was.”
The disease causes kidneys to develop clusters of fluid-filled sacs. The cysts are non-cancerous and can also affect other organs, such as the liver. The disease varies in severity.
Since the diagnosis, Lindsey has been on dialysis 10 hours a day. She has actively sought a donor, creating a Facebook page and scouring the Web to no avail.
It wasn’t until March that Kelley was tested at CPMC in preparation for the Paired Donation programme, where Kelley would donate to somebody who matched, and in return, a match would be found for Lindsey.
The process included blood work, a urinalysis and a psychological evaluation.
“I wanted to get tested. It was just her getting her head right to get a kidney, and getting kind of settled in,” Kelley said. “She wasn’t ready for it, kind of feeling sorry for herself and all that, just kind of the normal way someone’s going to deal with it. Finally, she said, ‘I’m ready, I want a kidney.’”
The Paired Donation trade wound up never happening after Kelley answered a phone call from CPMC in early April.
“They said that I was a match,” he said. While he and Lindsey are different blood types, Her lack of antibodies due to blood transfusions helped them match.
“The tissue typing is what we look at when we see how closely relatives are matched,” said Dr William Bray of CPMC. “There’re proteins on the surface of white blood cells the body uses to differentiate body tissue from one’s own tissue. Bacteria or viruses don’t have that on their surface, so they start to attack them. The HLA (human leukocyte antigen) system is used to compare individuals.”
Kelley thought more testing needed to be done.
“I said, ‘Isn’t there more testing that needs to be done?’ They said, ‘Oh no, you’re a match, we’re trying to contact Lindsey so she can get her end done to get tested to make sure she’s OK for surgery, make sure there’s nothing wrong with her.’ So that’s how it all went down.”
Lindsey wasn’t buying it when Kelley told her they matched, thinking it was a late April Fool’s Day joke.
“I was like, ‘Are you joking with me?’ I kept saying, ‘Are you serious?’ a million times, and I started crying hysterically,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it. I almost passed out from being shocked. It was amazing.”
For Lindsey, it means a new lease on life _ and a normal life, with no more worries about being attached to a machine nearly half the day.
For Kelley, once he recovers from surgery, he can expect to go back to his job as a special projects coordinator at Panoche Water District anywhere from two weeks to a month.
In fact, Dr Bray said a donor’s other kidney will increase blood flow and grow to as much as 150% of normal size, bringing function back to normal.
A living donor can have a much better effect than a deceased donor; for starters, Dr Bray said, doctors only have a matter of hours to determine if a deceased kidney is suitable, compared to months of testing for a living donor.
“Virtually all living donors donate healthy kidneys. Deceased donors, with the trauma they go through, it takes awhile for the kidney to start functioning,” he said. “With a living donor, the kidney is outside the body for a very short time. A deceased kidney can be outside of body anywhere from six to 22 hours. By the time we get the recipient and donor here, many hours have passed.”
No matter what happens, Kelley said, there are no regrets. A few butterflies maybe, but no regrets.
“My biggest fear in all of this was finding something wrong with me – being a letdown to her, not being able to donate the kidney, and finding out there was something wrong with me,” he said. “But the great thing was, there wasn’t.” – Los Banos Enterprise/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
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