Transplant attempt pushes daughter to raise awareness
Kelly Williams’ spirit was willing to gamble with her own life to help save her dad’s, but her body was not.
In May, Lynn Bowers, 53, of Altoona, who suffers from diabetes, congestive heart failure and receives dialysis, was diagnosed with stage four renal failure, and his 29-year-old daughter, also of Altoona, wanted to donate a kidney to him.
Although her doctors cleared her to make such a donation, PinnacleHealth in Harrisburg, where her father, who has four other children, is in the process of getting on a transplant list, applied the brakes because Williams has a blood-clotting condition.
“And I’m not complaining about them in any way, shape or form,” she said of PinnacleHealth. “I think it’s awesome that they screen that good, because even though I want to put myself in danger and I’ve never had a clot … [they said] ‘We don’t want you to put yourself in danger.'”
The healthcare provider’s policy is to not endanger the lives of donors, its website said.
After PinnacleHealth told her about reaching out to the media to raise awareness, Williams did just that.
“It’s more so about raising awareness about the benefits of living donors, and just to put it out there – if people do this – it can increase the chances of a longer life for someone,” she said.
Williams is not alone in her unsuccessful attempt at donation.
A national statistic shows “only one out of every 10 donors who come forward to donate successfully complete the donor testing process,” PinnacleHealth living donor coordinator Jerilyn Goldman said in an email.
Some of the criteria to donate are donors must be between the ages of 18 and 65, have a body mass index less than or equal to 35 and normal blood pressure, the PinnacleHealth website said.
A donor’s blood type must match the recipient, the site said.
Bowers’ blood type is A-negative, and Williams, who is A-positive, would have been a match for her dad, she said.
Donations from a living donor offer several advantages, the PinnacleHealth website said.
Those advantages are not having to wait for one from a deceased donor; a kidney from a living donor usually starts to work immediately; fewer rejection episodes, which leads to a kidney from a living donor lasting about 10 years longer than one from a deceased donor; a need for less drugs that suppress one’s immune system, which in turn lessens possible side effects; and the ability to schedule a living donor transplant, allowing the donor and recipient to plan.
Since learning of her father’s disease, Williams has heard of others going through something similar.
“It’s crazy,” she said. “I didn’t realize it until after we found out about my dad just how many people that I know whose family members are on lists or waiting to get on lists or a chance that they’re going to have to be on one for a kidney.”
Tracey Williams, 29, of Claysburg, went to school with Kelly. They are not related.
A diabetic for 25 years, Tracey Williams received a kidney and pancreas transplant from a deceased donor at the end of April through Penn State Hershey Medical Center.
Williams, who is doing well, said her mother tried to donate, but did not pass a final test because one of her kidneys sat higher up than the other.
Through her ordeal, Tracey learned of programs which connect families of potential transplant recipients in order for them to make possible trades among families who might not be able to donate to their own family member but could possibly donate to someone else who, in turn, could donate to their loved one.
“That’s a beautiful thing,” Tracey Williams said.
“Many people don’t know they can live a long, healthy life … with one kidney after donating one to someone else,” she said in an email. “Donating is a special gift that can change a recipient’s life dramatically. It can give them a longer, better quality of life. My boyfriend, Joey, was not an organ donor before he met me, but after seeing how sick I was, he decided to become a donor on his driver’s license. After seeing how much a new organ helped me, he knew he made the right decision. This experience has changed my life drastically for the better. I still can’t believe this is real. I feel so blessed.”
To find out more about becoming a donor, visit www.donors1.org.
Bowers had a setback recently, suffering a mild stroke and other complications. He was admitted to the UPMC Altoona’s medical intensive care unit, Williams said. But Wednesday, he was out of ICU and moved to another floor.
Bowers doesn’t want anyone’s pity, and gets upset when someone treats him like he is sick, Williams said.
Williams praised her dad as “a great man” who despite his illness plays outdoor games and goes on walks and to church with his younger children, ages eight and 10.
“I want to see him get better. I want to see him be able to see my little sister graduate from school. I want to see him see my little sister get married and my little brother,” she said. “His family’s his life.”
Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030.