Living kidney donation: Craig and James' story

Craig and JamesCraig and James 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 followed up with his family physician, who referred him to a specialist. The specialist diagnosed James with chronic kidney disease. At the time, James still had 70 percent kidney function, so the hope was that, with proper care, he wouldn't need dialysis or a kidney transplant for 10-20 years. James started taking medication, altered his diet and began exercising regularly - anything he could to prolong the time before he would need a transplant. He also enjoyed family activities, attending church, and spending time with his friend Craig.

James' kidneys began shutting down

Only five years later, James felt fatigued and had swelling in his legs. He made an appointment with his nephrologist, who had been monitoring James' diminishing kidney function. Tests revealed that his kidney function had dropped to 10 percent – it was time to start dialysis or get a kidney transplant. James' nephrologist immediately referred him to Ohio State's Comprehensive Transplant Center.

After James' transplant eligibility was confirmed, he learned he had two options: he could begin dialysis until a kidney from a deceased donor became available, which could take many years, or he could begin his own search for a living kidney donor. James was overwhelmed at the thought of asking someone for their kidney.

Being a living kidney donor

Although Craig insists his donation wasn't a big deal, James and his wife Laura share their thoughts on the life-changing impact of living kidney donation.

Benefits of transplant felt immediately

James and his transplant surgeon Dr. Amer Rajab talk about the benefits James experienced because of his living donor kidney transplant.

Fostering living kidney donation

Craig and his transplant surgeon Dr. Ronald Pelletier discuss the ever-growing need for living kidney donors like Craig.

Keeping a sense of humor

James and Craig maintained their sense of humor throughout the entire process, and even nicknamed the transplanted kidney "Kenny."

Importance of discovering kidney issues early

James and Laura share how they learned that James had a serious health issue and discovered the kidney disease that would change their lives.

Craig stepped forward to be a living kidney donor

When the church made an announcement about James' condition, 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 by the news that he and James had the same 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.

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

Both are healthy... and grateful

Today, James doesn't have to worry about being on dialysis for the rest of his life. He's 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 now an advocate for living donor kidney transplantation. He shares his story with others suffering with chronic kidney disease and encourages them to do the same. He also tells everyone to get tested to become a living kidney donor.

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