Provo couple becomes 1,000th living donor kidney transplant at Intermountain

by Symptom Advice on November 24, 2011

On Thanksgiving Day last year, Lee Sheppard ended up in the emergency room suffering from kidney failure. he had been diagnosed many years earlier with polycystic kidney disease, a hereditary condition that had killed his father and grandfather. he had lived with the disease for years with few symptoms until that day.

Doctors had told him his kidneys would only last about a year in 2010. but large, dark cysts caused severe pain for Sheppard and brought concern about cancer. Doctors removed both of his kidneys, which were functioning at less than 20 percent of normal.

Following the surgery, Sheppard began dialysis and his wife began to ponder giving him her kidney.

“It was amazing how many lovely people came out of the woodwork and volunteered their kidneys. It’s not something that’s easy to say ‘thank you’ to when somebody offers you such a great gift,” Pam Sheppard said. “I felt so privileged that I became the best match.”

“How overwhelmingly grateful I am for my wife for making such a sacrifice. we feel so liberated and energized for what the future holds, so, we’re deeply grateful,” Lee Sheppard said.    

“we already enjoyed a rich love together, but this last year — which has been a journey — has reinforced it in such a way that it’s hard to put a finger on it,” Lee Sheppard said. “The transplant center team is very, very profession and does everything it can to make sure nothing goes wrong … but also (shows) real concern, really compassionate.”

Dr. James Stinson recalled the first such donation — 28 years ago — when a sister gave a kidney to her brother.

“It freed him from dialysis and gave him many years of life that he would not otherwise have had,” he said.

Today, the Intermountain Transplant Program performs more than 135 heart, kidney, liver and pancreas transplants each year.

Dr. Diane Alonso, another surgeon with the Intermountain Transplant Team, recognized the courage and generosity of the human spirit.

“It cements that living donation is a vial source of organs not only in this state but in the country, but particularly in this state,” she said. “At our institution, 50 percent of our kidney donations are from live donors.”

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