PEGGY LEGALT, KIDNEY TRANSPLANT HEROINE: Peggy’s most vivid memory of donating a kidney to her youngest sister, Julie was the accolade and appreciation she received. The transplant medical team lined the hallway of St. Jude’s hospital applauding her as she was wheeled into surgery. Once she woke from the procedure, Peggy remembers being showered with flowers and cards from family, friends and people she barely knew. All thanked her and made her feel like she had really done something great.”For me it was like nothing. The only consequence was so many people made me feel that I had done something extraordinary.”
In 1999 when Julie asked Peggy if she would be tested to see if Peggy might be a compatible kidney donor, “I never questioned her request. Thinking about giving my kidney felt like that would be nothing, because I had always been healthy. The only time I’d been in the hospital was to have a baby. Julie had been in and out of the hospital since she was a little girl.”There was no downside to donating from Peggy’s perspective. The surgeon had told her that following the procedure it might hurt to walk or breathe at first, and that it might take several months to recover. None of these possible effects became real. Peggy got eight weeks off work and felt just fine within a week of the surgery. And Peggy donated her kidney before the procedure was performed laparscopically (with only a minute incision) as it is done today.
To this day Peggy’s health continues to be strong. She feels that transplant surgery for kidneys as well as other organs is “a miracle”. Twenty-two years later, Peggy described how people still thank her for being a kidney donor. Of course, she doesn’t think to tell people that she was a donor. I only discovered Peggy’s secret years after we had met because my own son has kidney failure and is now waiting for a second transplant.
By the time Peggy finished talking about her experience as a kidney donor, I was committed to sharing her story of compassion. She concluded by pointing out that kidney donors have longer life spans than the average in the US population. “The transplant team won’t let you donate if you aren’t super healthy.”
Several take-a-ways from my conversation with Peggy include that, “if you like people to be nice to you, donate a kidney.” Also, that “you don’t have to die first to give someone one of your kidneys. And if you want to help someone–someone you know and love or someone you’ve never met, get tested to be a kidney donor. ” Peggy reminded me that if you become a kidney donor, not only will you have a friend for life, but if you ever need a kidney yourself, you will be at the head of the que to receive a kidney even if you don’t have your own donor already.
DR. Shuvo Roy at the University of California, San Francisco, has been working steadily on the development of a bio-artificial kidney. This unique endeavor aims to produce a device which can be implanted in people facing kidney failure. The bio-artificial kidney has the potential to replace kidney dialysis. Today more than one half million Americans (551,954) are estimated to be on dialysis to sustain their life. Dialysis centers around the country hook up their patients to a large machine which cleans the patient’s blood for three to four hours at least three times weekly. The bio-artificial kidney would free people cursed with kidney failure from being tied to a machine. The bio-artificial kidney will be implanted in the abdominal cavity and powered by the user’s own blood pulse.
Dr. Roy is a visionary and a kidney hero of the first order. His efforts, together with other colleagues, aim to restore the lives of all people faced with kidney failure. Below is a video conference on the status of The Kidney Project, January 2022.
January 2022 You Tube on The Kidney Project : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZZyE67VU5o