Local family receives two transplants in one week
- Written by Beverly Reynolds
In December, the Willoughby family of Atascocita was blessed with early Christmas gifts of not one, but two kidney transplants within their immediate family. Nathan, 22, and his mother, Debi, received donor kidneys within one week of each other at Methodist Hospital. They deal with Polycystic Kidney Disease, which also affects several members of their extended family. “PKD is the most common life-threatening, genetic disease where cysts form in the liver or kidneys, causing kidney failure. Often, patients with this disease require dialysis and a kidney transplant. In the United States, 600,000 people are affected by this disease,” said Chris McGowan, registered nurse and transplant coordinator at Methodist Hospital. “On December 4, 2007, my husband, Jeff, gave our son a chance at a better life by donating one of his kidneys so that he could enjoy life and have goals,” said Debi Willoughby. “Two days later, my parents were in a serious car accident, then I received the call that I had received a donor for a transplant. That transplant took place on Dec. 11,” added Willoughby. “I felt a real sense of struggle. I already had several family members who were in need of my care and attention.” Debi was diagnosed with PKD around the age of 19. Her mother and several other relatives have also dealt with this life-threatening disease. She and her oldest son, Nathan, have been going to dialysis together since August. Their younger son, Jordan, 19, also has the disease. He, however, is not yet on the donor list. “When I received a call ... I was told to be at the hospital within two hours. The organ was flown just for me for my 7 p.m. operation. The donor was from South Carolina and was a perfect match,” said Willoughby. “I was in the hospital and out after a four-night stay. I no longer have a need for dialysis.” Since both Debi and Nathan had their transplants, they have been on medication to prevent their bodies from rejecting the kidneys. They are grateful for the ability to be on the medication, even though they will need to take it for the rest of their lives. They feel it is a small price to pay to get their lives back to normal, they said. “I urge everyone to consider organ donation. There are currently more living donors than you might think. I went back to work within two weeks after providing my kidney to Nathan,” said Jeff Willoughby. For more information about this disease or to donate funds for research, visit www.pkdcure.org. Cutline: Debi and Jeff Willoughby are enjoying their time together as they recover from transplant surgery.