A Woman with Polycystic Kidney Disease Found the Perfect Donor: Her Husband of 51 Years

By Rachel Whetstone from In The Cloud Copy

Peggy Nipper was struggling with polycystic kidney disease (PKD). Her kidneys were beginning to fail after developing numerous cysts. It can often be difficult to find a kidney donor, but Peggy found the perfect match in more ways than one. Her husband, Mike, was compatible with her to be a living kidney donor.

PKD Takes Over the Kidneys

The disease has genetic origins and affects both kidneys, eventually leading to kidney failure for many patients. It tends to run in families – about 90 percent of people with PKD also have a close relative with the disease.

Peggy’s kidneys were functioning at just 14 percent when she had the transplant. Her brother, who also has the disease, is currently at stage three kidney failure. Their mother had previously died from the disease. Peggy needed either dialysis or a transplant. The transplant was her best chance at living a more normal life.

A Rare Match

It can be very difficult for someone in need of a kidney to find a match. First, they need to be eligible to get on the national transplant list. After that, it takes an average of seven years before a match can be found.

Since Peggy was over 70 years old, her chances of being eligible for a transplant were much lower. Her best chance was to find a donor in someone that she knew. However, finding a match in her husband was a big surprise.

It’s not common for married couples to have compatible blood and tissue types, and the chances get lower if the couple has had children together. The body can create antigens during pregnancy that will fight to reject a spouse’s blood. However, the antigen check for Mike and Peggy still checked out as a match.

Living Donors Can Cut Down Wait Times

Kidneys are one of the few organs that can be transplanted while the donor is still alive. The single working kidney in both the donor and the recipient will enlarge to take over the function of both kidneys.

When living donors are used for kidney transplants, it removes the need to wait for a donor to pass away. It also means that surgery can be scheduled in advance, and the recipient’s body typically adjusts to a kidney from a living donor faster than it would adjust to the kidney of a deceased donor.

The Perfect Gift

Peggy and Mike were high school sweethearts and had been married for 51 years before Mike gave Peggy the greatest gift.

Mike said, “We promised each other, in sickness and in health until death do us part, and that’s how it’s going to be. We’re just trying to extend that death-do-us-part for as long as we can.”

Peggy says that Mike doesn’t owe her any more gifts after giving her the ultimate present of his kidney.

The couple had surgery on November 12, 2019. Peggy is recovering well, and her body is responding well to the new kidney.

 


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