Sharing The Gift Of Life
Carl Twomey and Janet, his wife of 27 years, are all smiles in the recovery room at Beth Israel Hospital after their live donor kidney transplant in March. Courtesy photo
By Patricia Roy
You might say that Carl Twomey won the lottery twice.
When he needed a kidney donor in order to save his live, both times one was there for him.
That’s not always the case. At any given time, more than 100,000 people are on the national waiting list for donors.
Diagnosed in his early thirties with IGA Nephropathy, a condition that in Twomey’s case caused his kidney function to deteriorate, he was told by his doctors that he would need a kidney transplant.
“Some people can live for years with the condition,” he said, “but in my case it caused my kidneys to deteriorate rapidly. I got my first kidney transplant when I was 36 years old.”
Fortunately, his sister was found to be a perfect match and the kidney she donated allowed Twomey to live a normal life for the next 26 years.
About a year ago, Twomey’s doctors began to notice that his creatine levels in his blood were rising, an indication that his kidney wasn’t filtering waste normally.
“So the doctors put me on alert that sometime in the not too distant future, I would have to go on dialysis or get a kidney transplant,” he said.
Twomey was monitored for a time and by the fall, doctors at Boston’s Beth Israel Hospital said it was time for a transplant.
His wife Janet, an Advanced Placement history teacher at Ashland High School, was the first donor option; She has the universal donor blood type O but rigorous pre-transplant testing revealed a mild cardiac abnormality, ruling her out. Neither of Twomey’s two adult children met the medical criteria either.
Where to turn? Where else but Facebook? In the space where others go to look for a handy man, house painter or landscaper, Twomey carried on his search for a kidney.
As he made the post in January, Twomey knew the odds were stacked heavily against him. The waitlist for even a cadaver kidney is about three to five years long, he said.
There were hopeful moments, though. Twomey is a member of the Faith Community Church in Holliston and the congregation offered their prayers. Two church members went so far as to put their faith in action and put themselves forward as transplant volunteers.
In the meantime, the Beth Israel medical team took another look at Janet Twomey, in order to re-evaluate her cardiac testing.
“They decided the slight [cardiac anamoly] was nothing to be too concerned about,” said Twomey.
The family found out in February that the transplant surgery using Janet’s kidney was on, seemingly an answer to their prayers.
“The notion of accepting a stranger’s kidney is less appealing, though obviously it’s a blessing” Twomey said.
The successful surgery took place on March 21. Janet was in the hospital for two days and her husband for three.
Carl Twomey has to return to the hospital for frequent blood work and recently stayed in overnight for an ultrasound and to get some fluid drained from his kidney. The problem along with excessive fatigue after the transplant led to an alteration in his medicine protocol which includes an immunosuppressant that is easier on the system seems to have solved the problem.
“I was sleeping after the transplant 10 – 11 hours a day and taking a nap, “ he said. “But now I’m back to normal. I have a new lease on life.”
Janet, too has recovered from her surgery. She dealt with fatigue and nauseated after her donation, but like her husband, she’s on the mend.
Her donation did keep her from accompanying Ashland High School students on a trip to Italy, though.
Pleased that his wife is also on the mend, Twomey said he has a new lease on life. He is able to enjoy golfing including a weekly nine-hole league associated with Raytheon Co., his longtime employer.
Janet told her husband that the kidney donation and acceptance “was almost like a renewal of our vows,” said Twomey.
He felt he was lucky that he had so many people cheering for him and praying.
“I just turned it over to God,” he said.
Twomey feels for the people who are waiting for a kidney and hopes his story inspires others to donate.
“My heart goes out to the people who are waiting,” he said.
On the home front, he’s collecting travel brochures to offer a rain-check on Janet’s planned trip to Italy.
He went on to thank the medical teams at Beth Israel for their expert care. “I feel luck to live where I was able to get the best care,” he said.