We have two kidneys, but we only need one to survive. Their job is to filter waste products from our blood. When both kidneys fail, all of your body's systems start to fail. Your best option will likely be kidney transplantation. We met a Sioux Falls man who was fortunate to get the gift of life twice after his body rejected his first kidney transplant.
Gene Dickey is always happy to shake the hand of Dr. Chris Auvenshine. He is one of the transplant surgeons who played a role in saving his life. Gene's road to recovery actually started 13 years ago when he first discovered he had FSGS (Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis) a rare disease that attacks the filtering system within the kidney. In 2005, his uncle gave him one of his kidneys.
Gene says, "About 6 months out we started to realize there were complications and we saw rejection. We did treatments to try and stop rejection but were unable to. A year and a half out I had a calcium deficiency seizure. At that point my kidneys had failed totally."
Dr. Auvenshine says, "Gene lost his first kidney to opportunistic infection and rejection. Those insults were too much for the kidney to tolerate and he progressed into full renal failure."
Gene started on dialysis 3 hours a day, 3 times a week and in March of 2008 was placed on the kidney transplant list. But because he'd already had a transplant and rejected it, Dr. Auvenshine says he was very reactive to human antigens. He is what they call high PRA. He had a 94% PRA which means 94% of people he would react negatively to.
Dr. Auvenshine says, "Gene was fortunate. He received a call he had a perfect match. It was basically an identical genetically matched kidney on the east coast that was allocated to him."
18 months after being listed for kidney transplant, Gene had his 2nd donor kidney and his second chance at life when he had his kidney transplant surgery at Avera McKennan that was 2009. Most people in his situation would be on the waiting list for 10 years. He was really lucky.
Gene says, "It's unbelievable. It's kind of hard sometimes to process that someone in this case gave their life so I could continue living mine. I'm thankful and blessed for that gift. "
The gift of life is a gift he doesn't take lightly and he is so grateful for the talented team of surgeons with the Avera Transplant Institute that enabled that gift to come alive in him.
Like all transplant patients, Gene Dickey will be on anti-rejection medications for the rest of his life. Plus, the Avera Transplant Team will frequently check his blood work to make sure his new kidney is still working and so far so good.