Brothers Share Special Bond as OHSU Kidney Transplant Patients

01/16/03    Portland, Ore.

Both affected by the same kidney disease; both receive kidney transplants from their wives

Marc Rowley, a patient scheduled for kidney transplantation tomorrow, has a long history of kidney failure and a unique story. In September 2000 Marc and his wife, Linda, knew he suffered from IgA nephropathy, a rare disorder that can cause kidney failure and the need for transplantation. What they didn't know -- until Marc's brother, Mike Rowley, volunteered to donate his kidney to Marc -- was that the two brothers suffered from the same disease.

"I was going to donate one of my kidneys to Marc, and I had to get blood pressure readings as a first step in the donation process," said Mike, a 36-year-old accountant at the Medford Women's Clinic. "Three days running, I got blood pressure readings in the 220s/120s. I called the OHSU renal transplant coordinator, and she told me to immediately run, not walk, to my doctor."

That same night Mike developed chest pain and was rushed to Providence Medford Medical Center Emergency Department where he was diagnosed with kidney failure. His disease had already progressed well past his brother's. Mike began dialysis in January 2001 and was scheduled for transplantation.

On Feb. 20, 2001, at OHSU, Mike's wife, Monica, donated her left kidney to her husband, and Mike's recovery was immediate. An avid reader, Mike hadn't been able to concentrate long enough to read a magazine for months. Suddenly, he was home, reading books one after another. Today both he and Monica are thriving.

But Mike's disease upset the well-laid plan for one brother to donate a kidney to the other. Linda, Marc's wife, immediately followed her sister-in-law's lead. "I volunteered," she said. "In the back of my mind I always thought if Mike couldn't donate a kidney to Marc, I would. I just hoped my kidney would be a match." She was a match, and tomorrow both she and Marc are scheduled for surgery at OHSU.

John Barry, M.D., professor of surgery and head of urology in the OHSU School of Medicine, directs the renal transplant team and conducted Mike's surgery. "I've been doing kidney transplants at OHSU for 29 years," he said, "and each is still as thrilling as the first. It's miracle stuff."

The OHSU kidney transplant team performs about 140 kidney transplants each year and is part of one of the oldest transplant centers in the nation. "Our statistics are some of the best in the nation, and certainly in the Northwest," said Linda Cannard, R.N., OHSU renal transplant coordinator. "We began in 1959, so our team has excellent experience. And we're especially meticulous about follow-up." In fact, Mike's OHSU transplant physician travels to Medford to see him several times a year.

Nationwide, 80,000 patients are waiting for organ transplants, and most are not as fortunate as the Rowleys in finding organ donors. In Oregon, like every other state, the need for organ donors is critical. Anyone interested in giving the gift of life is invited to contact the Oregon Donor Program at 800 452-1369.

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