Dennis Donates at Age 67

My name is Dennis Behm.  I’m Professor Emeritus, French Horn, at The University of Southern Mississippi.  My story starts with a trip to Iowa to see friends.

My wife, Kay, and I drove to Iowa City to hear my last teaching assistant’s final doctoral French horn recital at the U. of I.  The following day, my former student and his fiancee drove up to Mason City, Iowa, with us to see Rich and Shirley Dean, family friends from my days growing up in Mason City.  Over supper Rich said he was experiencing kidney failure and was about to have to begin dialysis.  He was on the transplant list at Hennepin County Hospital in Minneapolis, a hospital that specializes in kidney transplants.  Rich thought he might have a donor, but the donor’s family was against it and it didn’t look promising.

On our trip home Kay and I discussed the possibilities of one of us donating.  We are the same blood type as Rich so we at least had the basic criteria met.  Once home we called the transplant center at Hennepin County to see if we might be tested to see if we were a match. Kay was rejected as she’s had breast cancer.  I was initially rejected because of my age which was 67 at the time.  Their cut-off is normally 60.  I made an appointment with my doctor to get his opinion and he felt my health should not prevent me from being able to donate.  He called the transplant center and following this call, I was given the go ahead for the tests.  The tests came back positive for me to be able to go forward.  A date was set and, since it’s now been over three years, I must say the transplant was a great success.

At 67 I was the oldest donor to donate a kidney at Hennepin County and at 78 Rich was close to the oldest recipient.  Together we were the oldest donor/recipient they’ve had.

Going in I only had two concerns:  could I still drink beer following the transplant (yes), and since I have started a home renovation business since retirement, could I still do fairly heavy work (yes).

Concerns about the recipient:  will he/she have the self discipline to follow the rather rigorous regime of pills and check-ups necessary to keep them from rejecting their new kidney.  In this case, I knew there were no worries.  Rich had farmed outside of Mason City his entire life and was an outstanding jazz alto sax and bass player, all pursuits that require a great deal of discipline.  I also knew his wife Shirley, a.k.a. “The Boss”, would also keep an eye on things, not that he needed it.

I did have some stipulations as to how Rich was to treat his new kidney which I typed up and asked him sign.   There were only three.  1)  As his new kidney was accustomed to premium beer, he would agree not to drink any beer advertised as “light”, “lite”, or “less filling”.  2) As I was involved in classical music and jazz my entire life he would agree never to listen to any Barry Manilow.   And 3).  If he should happen to suffer priapism (an erection lasting longer that 4 hours), he would need to return the kidney, immediately!

Rich is now a healthy 82 year old enjoying traveling with Shirley and still being able to play in the North Iowa Big Band and his own groups, Raiders of the Lost Art and Spats and Flappers.  I’m now 70 and in perfect health. I take more pride in being a kidney donor than any thing else I’ve done in my life.