Madras woman gives gift of life
Donates kidney to brother
Doris Boyd didn't have to worry about what to get her brother for Christmas this year, because in September she'd given him in advance the ultimate gift of a donated kidney.
The Madras woman explained that her brother, Rick Snodgrass, was born with only one kidney and for the past 25 years she had considered the possibility of donating a kidney to him if he ever had health problems.
Oddly enough, her mother was born with four kidneys, while her husband, Carl, like her brother, was born with only one. So Doris was well-versed on kidneys and their function.
It wasn't until he was a teenager that Rick learned he had a single kidney, and he didn't experience any problems until 15 years ago. He subsequently went on a renal diet which avoided any form of tomatoes, ice cream, soda pop and foods with phosphorus like potatoes.
"So for 15 years that meant no tacos, spaghetti, pizza, or lasagna, and he could only eat mashed potatoes if he soaked the potatoes in water for six hours first," Doris said.
The diet helped for a while, but Rick progressively got worse until November of 2000 when Doris got the long-expected call. Rick was on dialysis and on a list to find a donor for a kidney transplant.
"I immediately volunteered to go through testing," Doris said, noting there were just the two of them and their mother in her family and the doctors said her mother was too old to donate. "They wouldn't take a kidney unless the donor was between the ages of 35 and 60," she related.
She and Rick share the same O-positive blood type, which is a universal type others can use. Unfortunately, however, those with O-positive blood can only use O-positive blood, which limited Rick's chances of finding a match.
"My husband agreed with me that there was no other alternative," Doris said of her decision to donate a kidney, and mentioned that she was not a compatible match to donate to her husband anyway if he should ever need a kidney transplant.
She soon found out the procedure wasn't as simple as stepping up and offering to donate a kidney. She had to have extensive blood work done, an EKG, cat scans, a mammogram, HIV test, chest x-rays, an ultrasound, and psychological evaluation.
"I was able to have everything done at Mountain View Hospital but the cat scan, because they wanted to do that in San Diego," she said.
Since Rick lives in San Diego, his transplant surgery was scheduled to be done at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD), which has a 98 percent success rate on kidney transplants. The cost for both donor and recipient was approximately $600,000, but his insurance would pay for everything but Doris' plane fare.
"There are six markers in your blood they try to match, and they can do transplants if three out of the six markers match. When the results came back, Rick and I matched on six out of six markers," Doris related.
Initially, the surgery was set for Aug. 22, but Rick developed a bacterial infection and pneumonia and the procedure was rescheduled in September.
When Doris and her husband flew out of the Portland Airport on Labor Day, Sept. 3, she had still not been confirmed for the surgery. Doctors at UCSD still had to do one final cat scan on her kidney on Sept. 4.
In the meantime, her brother had lost 30 or 40 pounds after going on dialysis and being ill and his doctor said he needed to put on weight before the transplant.
Throwing caution to the wind she confessed, "Every day before the surgery I'd bring him hero sandwiches and French fries," and, noted everything had been OKed and the transplant had been rescheduled for Sept. 12.
Then Sept. 11 happened and Doris sat at Rick's house glued to the TV with his wife, Sandy, and their kids, Scott, 20, and Chad, 18.
"It was all over the news and we learned three of the terrorists lived four miles from my brother's house," Doris said, adding, "San Diego has the largest Muslim community in the U.S. and that was not where we wanted to be at all!"
"Things were being canceled left and right, but UCSD called to confirm that we still wanted to do the transplant and we said `Sure,'" Doris said.
The next day at 5 a.m., Doris began a six-hour kidney-removal procedure, while her brother's surgery only took two hours.
"It was an instant success. The kidney started working on the operating table and he was up and walking that night," she said.
The first thing Rick did the week after being released from the hospital was eat his fill of pizza, spaghetti, lasagna and all the foods he had been forbidden to eat before, including a banana split from Baskin and Robbins. The result was that he has gained 50 pounds since obtaining the new kidney.
"He recovered much quicker than I did and went back to work before I did. He plays tennis and swims now," Doris related.
Her blood counts and kidney function are all back to normal now, but she is still experiencing some back pain from being in a back-bend position for six hours during her surgery. Doris wasn't able to return to her job as manager of the Madras Bi-Mart Store for five weeks. Even so, she stated, "I'd do it all over again in a heart beat."
Reflecting over their childhood, Doris said she and Rick always got along really well, but he was usually the one giving all his possessions to her. It wasn't an outpouring of generosity, but the result of paying off debts racked up from borrowing money from her. Over time she acquired his typewriter, guitar, BB gun, 10-speed bicycle and more. As an adult, to save face, he always told his boys that "Aunt Doris stole everything from me."
With a chuckle, she related how when he wanted a kidney she had told him, "Here's the deal: if you want the kidney you're going to have to tell your boys the truth," and Rick agreed.
Everything was forgotten, however, until the two met for the first time at the hospital following the surgery. When she needled him about his promised confession, Rick told her to check the card he had sent to her hospital room.
Returning to her room Doris found a beautiful music box with an angel on it. The accompanying card had a picture of an angel with her arm around a little boy and the words "I asked God for a miracle and he sent you."
This December Rick also told her not to worry about giving him a Christmas gift. "The kidney will be my Christmas present for the rest of my life," he said gratefully.