Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Man Gives a Little of Himself for a Friend

The Telegraph
ST. LOUIS — Paul Wallace didn’t give Vanessa Vassar his heart for Valentine’s Day, but rather his kidney.
The duo underwent a living donor kidney transplant surgery Tuesday, which also happened to be National Donor Day, at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. As the nearly six-hour procedure took place, family and friends waited in the lobby.
"I’m excited for Vanessa," said Sara Wallace, Paul’s wife. "I don’t think she knows how good she’s going to feel. I’m proud of Paul for doing this."
Sara Wallace has known Vassar her whole life. The duo grew up going to the same church and school — Alpha Chapel in Alton.
When Vassar first found out she needed a kidney, Sara said she agreed to get tested but had reservations about the process.
"Paul never hesitated, not once," she said.
Sara said she and her husband both were suitable matches to be a donor, but it was he who decided to step forward and offer her friend the gift of a lifetime.
Vassar’s parents, Henry and Shirley Vassar of Godfrey, said they believed Paul was doing a great thing for their daughter.
"It’s a godsend," Henry said.
Henry said his daughter has been blessed and that their faith in God has helped the family get through the ordeal.
Sara agreed.
Vanessa was diagnosed in 2001 with a disease known as amyloidosis. The disease actually is a group of diseases in which one or more organ systems in the body accumulate deposits of abnormal proteins, known as amyloid.
Prior to being diagnosed, Vanessa suffered strange symptoms. A biopsy revealed the disease and the fact it was attacking her kidneys.
Prior to the surgery, Vanessa herself said it was a rare disease and that only 4,000 people worldwide are diagnosed each year.
Henry said his daughter, who lives in Mattoon, has been fortunate that she has been able to continue working throughout her ordeal.
The 40-year-old, who holds a bachelor of arts degree in counseling from Greenville College and a master’s degree in psychology/counseling from Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tenn., works as a child care consultant with Life Links Inc., a nonprofit that works in providing health care to those in need.
"She has never let her illness stop her," Henry said.
Henry said the one thing his daughter wants people to know is how important living donors are and that you do not need to be a relative.
"She hopes that her and Paul’s story will help motivate others," he said.
Besides Sara and Vanessa’s parents, other family members who waited included Paul’s father, Harold Wallace of Alton, and uncle, David Jackson of Granite City. Jeff Andersen, the children’s pastor from the Wallace’s church, Abundant Life Community Church in Godfrey, also stayed with the family.
While everyone waited, two surgical teams started the transplant procedure about 7:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Paul was taken into the donor operating room first, and 45 minutes later, Vanessa was brought into the recipient operating room.
Dr. Surendra Shenoy performed the donor surgery, and Dr. Jason Wellen completed the recipient transplant. Both surgeons work as transplant team members and full-time physicians of Washington University School of Medicine and nursing and allied health employees at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
Transplant surgeons at Washington University have performed kidney transplants for more than 30 years and have achieved an acute rejection rate of 4.2 percent — the lowest rejection rate ever in any transplant program in the world.
Wellen said the team performed 230 transplant surgeries in 2011, and 70 were from living donors.
Shenoy developed the mini-nephrectomy that was used in Paul’s part of the kidney transplant. The procedure allows for the kidney to be removed through a 3-inch-long incision, compared to a traditional 10- to 12-inch one.
Paul’s kidney was removed from his back, which leaves less chance for infection, fewer days in the hospital and reduced pain. His procedure took a little longer than normal, because Shenoy had to work around two renal arteries rather than the typical one that connects to the kidney.
The renal arteries carry a large portion of total blood flow to the kidneys. Up to one-third of total cardiac output can pass through the renal arteries to be filtered by the kidneys.
Shenoy and his team, which included a resident assistant, scrub tech and anesthesiologist, worked for nearly three hours to remove the organ. At 10:17 a.m., the kidney was out, and Wellen began flushing it of all the blood.
After cleaning and adding preservation fluid, he then took the kidney, which was no bigger than the size of a palm, into the adjacent operating room. Wellen then spent the next 30 minutes benching, or prepping, the kidney to be placed into Vanessa.
By noon, the newly placed kidney in Vanessa’s body was producing urine.
The kidneys control about 80 percent to 85 percent of the body’s operating systems.
All together, the surgeries lasted approximately six hours. Paul and Vanessa then spent between three and four hours in recovery before being placed in the intensive care unit.
Paul is expected to be released from the hospital within two days. Vanessa should be released within five days.
Paul, who works for the Alton Public Works Department, will be off on sick leave for approximately four weeks. When he returns, he will be on restricted duties.
Vanessa also will be able to return to work about a month after the transplantation.
According to remarkable and life-changing."

Wellen said there are not many opportunities that someone gets to help save the life of another person.
"This is one of them," he said.

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