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Living Donor Kidney Transplant

James and Craig have a connection that even the closest of friends don't often have. It all started when James, a husband and father from Amanda, Ohio, was denied life insurance because one of the test results from his required physical came back abnormal.

James went to his family physician, who referred him to a specialist. The specialist determined that James had chronic kidney disease. At the time, James still had 70 percent kidney function and was told he wouldn’t need dialysis or a kidney transplant for 10-20 years. So James started taking medication, altered his diet and started exercising to hopefully prolong the time before he would need a transplant. He also enjoyed spending time with his family, regularly attended church and spent time with his friend Craig.

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JAMES’S KIDNEYS WERE SHUTTING DOWN

"My kidneys were failing, and there was nothing the doctors could do."

Only five years later, James started suffering fatigue and swelling in his legs. He made an appointment with his nephrologist, who had been monitoring James’s diminishing kidney function. Tests revealed that James's kidney function had dropped to only 10 percent. The doctor told James that he needed to start dialysis or get a kidney transplant. He then immediately referred James to The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, because it has the largest, most experienced transplant program in the state of Ohio—as well as one of the largest, most experienced programs in the country.

After James’s transplant eligibility was confirmed, he learned he had two options: he could start dialysis until a deceased kidney donor could be found, which could take many years, or he could start looking for a living kidney donor. James was feeling overwhelmed by the thought of finding a living kidney donor when his church made an announcement on his behalf.

CRAIG STEPPED FORWARD TO BE A LIVING KIDNEY DONOR

"As it turns out, the friend I saw every Sunday ended up being a perfect match."

After hearing the announcement at church, James’s friend Craig decided to get tested to see if he was a match to be a living kidney donor for James. When the results came back, Craig was shocked to find out that he and James had the same remarkable organ compatibility that you would find in blood brothers. After talking it over with his family, Craig called James to tell him that he would be his donor.

After a comprehensive pre-transplant orientation process at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center, James and Craig underwent kidney transplant surgery. Dr. Ronald Pelletier removed Craig’s kidney and Dr. Amer Rajab transplanted the healthy organ into James’s body. After several hours, the surgeons came out to tell the families that both surgeries were successful. James and Craig each recovered without complications.

TODAY, JAMES IS HEALTHY…AND GRATEFUL

"I’m really blessed that I got this opportunity."

Today, James doesn’t worry about being on dialysis for the rest of his life. He’s too busy spending time with his wife Laura and playing with their two young daughters. James is thankful for his friend Craig’s selfless decision to become a living kidney donor. Though many people ask Craig why he did it, he doesn’t see what all the fuss is about. “He needed a kidney, and I was able to provide it.”

James is also an advocate for living donor kidney transplantation. James hopes that sharing his story will help others suffering with chronic kidney disease—and encourages everyone to get tested to become a living kidney donor.

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Meet James & Craig's Care Team

Behind every patient story we feature are the people who made it a success. Learn more below about James and Craig's talented care team.

Dr. Amer Rajab

Dr. Amer Rajab

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Dr. Amer Rajab, Transplant Surgeon at Ohio State

Dr. Rajab was James’s transplant surgeon at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center; he transplanted Craig’s healthy donor kidney into James’s body.

James and Craig can’t say enough good things about Dr. Rajab and the rest of the staff on the transplant floor.

Dr. Rajab is a leader in patient care and research. He performed Ohio State’s first pancreatic islet cell transplant in 2011.

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Dr. Ronald Pelletier

Dr. Ronald Pelletier

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Dr. Ronald Pelletier, Transplant Surgeon at Ohio State

Dr. Pelletier was Craig’s transplant surgeon at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center; he removed Craig’s healthy donor kidney so it could be given to James.

Craig and James can’t say enough good things about Dr. Pelletier and the rest of the staff on the transplant floor.

The success rate of kidney transplants at Ohio State is very impressive because of excellent surgeons like Dr. Pelletier.

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Bonnie Warrens

Bonnie Warrens

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Bonnie Warrens, Transplant Coordinator at Ohio State

Bonnie was James and Craig’s transplant coordinator and was there to answer all of their questions throughout the process.

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For most patients suffering end-stage kidney failure, kidney transplantation is the best treatment. A kidney transplant involves surgically replacing your damaged kidney with a kidney that has been donated by a deceased or a living donor. People whose kidneys have permanently failed due to chronic end-stage renal disease caused by diabetes mellitus, hypertension, autoimmune disease, congenital abnormalities or because of infection or trauma (injury) may be a candidate for a kidney transplant.

In the past, age was a major factor in receiving a kidney transplant; however, patients range from six-month-old infants to 70-year-old adults. Your overall health status is what’s most important. If you meet the candidacy requirements and are deemed healthy enough, you will then proceed with the transplant orientation process. Patients who have undergone kidney transplant after being on dialysis often tell us they now enjoy a noticeable improvement in the quality of their lives.

Screenings prior to transplant surgery ensure that you are in good medical and psychological health and that you have the motivation and support to adhere to treatment plans. People who generally are not candidates include those with metastatic cancer, active drug or alcohol abuse, active infection or severe medical problems.

If you think you might be a candidate for a kidney transplant, please contact your family physician immediately for evaluation. Your physician can then determine if a referral to the transplant team at Ohio State’s Comprehensive Transplant Center is necessary.

Learn More

To learn more about whether you could be a candidate for a kidney transplant, please call: 614-293-6724 or 800-293-8965.

Living Kidney Donation

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The best option for a patient waiting for a kidney is to receive one from a living donor. Wait times for patients who have living donors are reduced from years to months, and the transplant recipients have better outcomes with kidneys from living donors. We encourage all patients waiting for a kidney transplant to seek a living donor. Living donors do not have to be blood relatives; they can be spouses, in-laws, friends, co-workers or fellow church members. Gender and race are not factors in determining a successful match.

Qualifications for Living Kidney Donors

To qualify as a living donor, an individual must be in good general health and free from high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, kidney disease and heart disease.

The living donor will first undergo a blood test to determine blood type compatibility with the recipient. If the living donor and recipient have compatible blood types, the donor undergoes a medical history review and a complete physical examination, in addition to tests to ensure compatibility.

The decision to become a living donor is a voluntary one, and the donor may change his or her mind at any time during the process.

Learn More About Living Donation

If you’re considering becoming a living kidney donor, you can speak with a living donor coordinator at Ohio State’s Comprehensive Transplant Center by calling 800-293-8965.

Living Donor Kidney Transplant: Our Expertise

Recognized by U.S.News & World Report magazine as a “Best Hospital” caring for patients with kidney disorders, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center's Comprehensive Transplant Center is home to one of the largest, most-experienced kidney transplant programs in Ohio—as well as one of the largest, most-experienced in the nation. We performed our first kidney transplant in 1967, and since then we have been a nationally recognized leader in kidney transplantation. Ohio State’s transplant surgeons perform more than 250 kidney transplants per year.

In addition to this surgical expertise, Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center successfully performs complicated procedures, such as the six-way synchronized kidney transplant swap that took place in 2011—the first and largest to date in Ohio. Based on the success of this “domino transplant” that provided new, healthy kidneys to six deserving patients, Ohio State plans to continue pioneering synchronized kidney transplant swaps in the future.

Our Comprehensive Transplant Center is under the leadership of nationally renowned transplant surgeon Robert Higgins, MD, who is a former president of the United Network for Organ Sharing and comes to Ohio State from Rush University in Chicago.

The OSU Comprehensive Transplant Center

Ohio State’s Comprehensive Transplant Center (CTC) has long been a local and national leader in the field of transplantation. Since 1967, the Center has performed more than 7,500 types of transplants, including heart, lung, pancreas, kidney and liver.

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