Kidney Donation: Both Sides Now, Part 1

Richard Patterson, Jr.  |  Posted
Richard Patterson III and his son Richard Patterson Jr - kidney recipient and donor

There are two sides to every kidney donation story—the selfless decision made by the donor and the priceless gift received by the recipient. Richard Patterson, Jr. received a kidney from his son, Richard Patterson III, in June 2014. In Part 1, Richard Patterson, Jr. tells his story of cancer and kidney failure, and eventually receiving his transplant.

From Cancer to Kidney Disease to Kidney Transplant

Before 2007, my health was excellent for someone in his early 50s. You would have seen me doing occasional 7-1/2 minutes per mile runs and racing my bicycle down the street at 15-20 mph; however, in 2007 I learned I had a tumor on my pancreas, which eventually led to kidney disease.

Once I received the cancer diagnosis, I quickly made an appointment to remove the tumor from my pancreas. During this procedure the team discovered that the tumor had wrapped around one of my kidneys; both tumor and kidney would need to be removed to prevent the spread of cancerous cells. Cancer cost me one of my kidneys.

Unfortunately, I suffered a long-term side effect of post-surgical chemotherapy: permanent kidney damage. My remaining kidney was on a path of declining functionality and in 2010 a blood test revealed that I could be headed for dialysis. I felt despondent to learn that my new reality could be anchored to a dialysis chair and spending so much of my time undergoing this treatment. A fistula was placed to prepare for this possibility, but luckily my next test results showed some improvement.

I soon made changes to my diet, substantially cutting back on protein and maintaining a heightened level of physical exercise to do my best to avoid dialysis. This plan was wise, but despite these measures my kidney functionality slowly continued to decline. I joined the kidney transplant waiting list in 2013 with the hope of having a preemptive transplant.

After a year on the waiting list, my 26-year-old son decided he would like to be my kidney donor hero. Accepting an organ from one's child is not an easy decision. My son’s willingness to donate was heartwarming, and I knew that such a gift could extend my life by many years. Yet as a parent, I was concerned about my son's future as well. After reading a number of articles that mentioned the relative low risk of making a living donation without impairing the health of the donor, I decided to accept my son's gift of life.

My son underwent many tests at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) to ensure that he was a good match and that he was healthy enough to undergo the surgery. He passed with flying colors. At no time did my son express any reluctance to move forward along this transplant journey; however, I would often remind him that he could change his mind at any point along the way.

The day for us to undergo surgery came in June 2014, and the two of us along with my wife arrived at the hospital early in the morning. I prayed and hoped for the best for the two of us, and hugged my son thanking him for what he was about to do for me. Happily, the surgery went well for both of us! The recovery period proved to be somewhat more difficult than expected, but we both took it in stride. Looking back, we are both joyful with our decisions. All that I know is that I can NEVER thank my son enough for thinking so well of me.

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