In the first of our 3 part series, we introduced you to the Picketts from the Black Hills. Jonah Pickett found out last summer that both his kidneys were failing. He was diagnosed with IgA Nephropathy, a condition that causes loss of kidney function because the immune system attacks kidney tissue. At the young age of 24 he needs a kidney transplant. His mother Susan Pickett got tested immediately and was a match. We talked to them the day before they were having surgery.
In Part 2 of our special series, we got an unprecedented view of a living kidney transplant surgery at Avera McKennan. A warning for those you of who watch the video: it contains graphic images.
For living kidney transplant surgery--the donor goes first. That's 50 year old Susan Pickett from Whitewood, SD in this instance. Avera Transplant Surgeon Dr. Tariq Khan and his team are performing a hand-assisted laparoscopic surgery to remove her right kidney. We only need one functioning kidney to live a normal healthy life. When Susan found out Jonah Pickett, her youngest of 5, needed a kidney to survive at all, she gladly volunteered to give up one of hers. Jonah's dad has diabetes so he couldn't even be tested and Susan wanted to be tested first to save the children from being tested in the event she was a match, which she was.
Susan says, "He's my child and I will do whatever it takes to make him healthy."
Since the surgery is done laparoscopically, Susan's recovery time will be shorter. The kidney comes out the incision where the hand port was and then the surgeons inspect it, trim it and flush it with a solution to make sure it's working properly. Once it's cleaned, fellow Avera Transplant Surgeon Dr. Chris Auvenshine walks it from this operating room to another O.R. right next door. That's where 24 year Jonah Pickett from Sturgis is laying on the table, prepped and awaiting his surgery. Dr. Khan says having a live kidney donor, versus a cadaver kidney, is the best possible scenario especially for someone as young as Jonah.
Dr. Khan says, "The ischemia time, which matters a lot, is a lot less. You do surgery under optimal conditions. The person who donates is a healthy person with a healthy kidney. There is a minimum amount of ischemia time so the kidney comes out and goes right in and lasts much longer."
Jonah's surgery is done traditionally, opening up his abdominal wall on his right side. Then they intricately re-attach the transplanted kidney's renal vein, renal artery and ureter. Surgeons do not remove either of his bad kidneys. Jonah's mom Susan is already is recovery while Jonah is being operated on. After surgery he goes directly to ICU which is standard operating procedure to monitor his heart rate.
In one day, two surgeries, one family with a new lease on life grateful for Dr. Khan and the transplant team at Avera McKennan for giving it to them.
To round out our series, we check back in with mother and son to see how recovery went and how they are feeling today.