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Author Topic: 30 years of living with brother's kidney - that's something to celebrate!  (Read 2471 times)

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Offline Karol

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Waseca woman celebrates 30 years with transplanted kidney
By JESSICA BIES jbies@stpeterherald.com | Posted: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 9:00 am
Sandy Daniel is ready to celebrate.
Given a kidney transplant 30 years ago, the 66-year-old woman says sometimes the fact that she is alive fetels like a miracle.
And if that’s not worth celebrating, she doesn’t know what is.
“I just feel so blessed,” she said. “And I owe a lot to my family. They’ve been so wonderful.”
Quick to laugh and ever optimistic, Daniel said things haven’t been easy since her transplant, but she can’t help but thank God for each day she’s been given.
Even if recently, some of those days have been tough.
“My doctors have told me, ‘Sandy, you’ll probably never die from the kidney rejection,’” Daniel said. “You’ll probably die from side effects from the drugs.”
Some of those side effects have been severe. Though Daniel experienced 20 years of good health after her transplant, she said the past decade has been harder.
When her stomach tore after a routine surgery, she became septic and was left using a feeding tube for five months. She’s had multiple sunspots removed. She’s had diverticulitis, a digestive disease which affects the colon, and in 2008, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“Of course when I got breast cancer it was kind of scary because my mother died of breast cancer and my sister had it, and I have a suppressed immune system,” Daniel said. “But I made it through.”
Her daughter, Kari Jo Schumacher, said that’s because her mother is strong.
“We take every day as it comes,” Schumacher said. “She’s fought so many things and won the battle with all of them. I think God still wants her here.”
And even though the future remains uncertain, Schumacher is thankful for every extra moment the family has been given with her mom. Each day is a gift, she said.
“I just think that we’re blessed that we’ve had her longer,” Schumacher said. “We could have lost her a long time ago.”
A fatal diagnosis
When Daniel was diagnosed with chronic nephritis, a fatal kidney disease, she knew her chances of survival were slim.
It was 1969. She was 22 years old. She had just given birth to her first child and the pregnancy had badly damaged her kidneys.
Sitting in the car on her way home from Mayo Clinic in Rochester, she began to cry.
“I remember saying to my husband, ‘Craig, I’m so scared’” Daniel said. “’I’m not going to live to see my kids being raised.’”
She had a reason to be frightened. Daniel’s father, Joe Johnson, had passed away several years earlier, at the age of 54. He too had been diagnosed with kidney disease.
At the time, Daniel was still in her early teens. Her two youngest siblings, Rick and Cindy, were 2 and 4 years old.
He hadn’t lived to see his children grow up and neither would she, Daniel remembered thinking.
“It wasn’t like anyone could just give you a kidney back then,” Daniel said. “All the antigens need to be the same and the blood types need to be the same. They didn’t do a lot of transplants.”
In fact, the first successful kidney transplantation had only taken place in 1954, between identical twins. The recipient died eight years after the transplantation.
Between 1954 and 1973, only about 10,000 more kidney transplants were performed, according to the National Kidney Center. Doctors struggled with getting their patients’ bodies to accept the new, healthy organs.
Tissue typing and immune suppressing drugs weren’t used until 1962, at which point survival rates increased only slightly. Those that received a kidney from a living donor had between a 50 and 60 percent chance of living another five years. During this “early era” of kidney transplants, 10 years was unheard of.
Faced with those statistics, Daniel returned home to her new born son Troy. Two years later, she and her husband had a second child, Kari Jo, even though the stress of the pregnancy had the potential to damage her kidneys even more.
Daniel spent as much time as she could with both children, uncertain she’d live to see them grow up, go to high school, get married or even have kids of their own.
It became a waiting game.
Daniel knew the longer she could put off dialysis — the longer her kidneys continued to function — the more likely she’d survive.
Even as her health worsened, doctors at Mayo and scientific researchers were making the medical advances that could one day save her life.
“My body gave me 14 years,” Daniel said. “I had that kidney disease for 14 years, but during that 14 years they found out so much more about kidney transplants, when my kidneys stopped working there was hope.”
Part of God’s plan
In 1983, a 36-year-old Daniel began receiving regular blood transfusions and dialysis treatments while her six siblings were tested to see if they could be kidney donors.
Roger Johnson, who was two years older than Daniel, was a prefect match. But one of his kidneys was slightly spongy, which ruled him out.
A second brother, Rick Johnson, was a half-match. If Daniel was given transfusions of his blood and began taking anti-rejection medication immediately, it might work.
When asked to become a donor, Rick Johnson, said ‘yes’ immediately. It was no small thing, Daniel said. At 26, he was newly married and had just had his first child.
But the match might have been fated. Daniel recalled a conversation her parents had when she was younger.
She was 9 years-old when she overheard her mother Pat, who had just turned 40, tell her husband she was pregnant.
“I remember my dad saying, ‘Pat, there’s a reason we’re going to have this baby,’” Daniel said.
“It must have all been part of God’s plan. I never say I’ve been so lucky. I’ve always been blessed.”
Daniel would soon be blessed again. Because she and Rick were not a complete match, her doctors began searching for ways to help make the transplant more successful. They made phone calls to colleagues across the nation, finally striking luck in California.
Scientists there had just developed a new kind of immunosuppressant called Imuran. It was new and hadn’t been used often, but Daniel’s doctors decided to try it.
When Daniel and Rick Johnson’s blood and antigen levels lined up, the transplant was performed.
30 years of life
Schumacher remembers sitting, frightened, in the waiting room while the transplant took place.
“One of my biggest fears was that I wouldn’t get to know her as an adult, or my kids wouldn’t get to know her,” Schumacher said.
Her father, Craig, was frightened too, she said. When she turned to him for reassurance, he couldn’t help but try to prepare her for the worst.
She was 14 at the time. Her brother, Troy Daniel, was 12.
“We were fairly young at that time and kidney transplants weren’t really common,” Troy Daniel said. “I remember thinking, ‘What if I lose my mom?’”
But when the doctors came to find the family, it was with good news.
“The transplant was successful,” Sandy Daniel said. “It started working right on the table.”
Now, 30 years later, it is still working perfectly.
Daniel has gotten the chance to watch her kids grow up and is now focused on spending time with her grandkids.
She has five of them, she bragged.
One, Mariah Jo, is 10 years old. She said her grandmother, who attends all her sporting events, is the world’s best cheerleader.
“She’s one of my best friends,” Mariah Jo said.
Troy Daniel’s wife, Renee, said her mother-in-law is an inspiring woman and that her grandchildren think she is amazing. People are drawn to Sandy Daniel, she said. They can’t help it.
“I’ve always told [Sandy] she’s been an inspiration to anyone that’s been a part of her life,” Renee Daniel said. “Whether she’s a big part of their life or she just meets them by chance.”
But Sandy Daniel said it’s her family that is special. She and her husband, caretakers of Waseca’s Courthouse Park, moved back to the area several years ago to be closer to them.
Each year in their company has been a gift, she said echoing her daughter. It’s been family that’s kept her strong — her brother Rick especially.
“It’s 30 years of life I wouldn’t have had without that gift from my brother,” Daniel said. “I’ve been so blessed.”
Reach reporter Jessica Bies at 507-931-8568 or follow her on Twitter.com @sphjessicabies

Daughter Jenna is 31 years old and was on dialysis.
7/17 She received a kidney from a living donor.
Please email us: kidney4jenna@gmail.com
Facebook for Jenna: https://www.facebook.com/WantedKidneyDonor
~ We are forever grateful to her 1st donor Patrice, who gave her 7 years of health and freedom


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