An 84-year-old Texas man became the oldest organ donor in the United States after giving up one of his kidneys to help save his neighbor.
Wimberly-native Frank Dewhurst successfully underwent surgery to have his kidney transplanted to his neighbor, Linda Nall.
Nall was diagnosed with lupus, a systemic autoimmune disease that attacks the body's own tissues. She had been suffering from the illness for years, ultimately causing her kidneys to fail.
A Good Samaritan
Dewhurst said he has known about Nall's condition for years, but it was not until he saw Nall's sign in front of her yard calling for a kidney donor that he decided to give her one of his.
"The sign read 'I am type O and I need a kidney transplant. Please help me,'" he recounted.
"After talking it over with my wife, I told her [Nall] could have mine."
Dewhurst, who was a retired IBM engineer and Homeowner's Association president, first had to undergo a series of tests before he was cleared to donate his kidney, which he said he was very happy to do so.
When Dewhurst approached Nall about giving her his kidney, the 72-year-old woman did not expect it. She thought he went to her house to ask her to take down the sign.
"When he told me he wanted to give me his kidney, I was shocked," she said. "It's an incredible thing he has done for me and I am so grateful."
Following the surgery, Dewhurst only had to stay in the hospital for 48 hours before doctors allowed him to go home. He is now back to exercising regularly and attending to his normal day-to-day activities.
Challenges Of Getting A Kidney Transplant
The kidney transplant between Dewhurst and Nall was conducted by surgeons at Houston Methodist Hospital. Doctors had to test Dewhurst's health to confirm that he was fit enough to become an organ donor.
Dr. Hassan Ibrahim, head of the hospital's living kidney donor program, explained that the issue that they had to face was more about the patients' health and not their ages.
"Kidney function doesn't decline with age in most people so seniors can be donors as long as they don't have cardiovascular disease or cancer or other major conditions," he said.
The kidneys are considered to be particularly viable donations. Even if a person donates one of his kidneys, his remaining organ will be able to take on 70 percent of the function that both kidneys used to handle.
As many as 93,000 Americans are currently in line for kidney transplant. However, only one in three candidates will be able to receive a replacement organ within three years after being placed on the national waiting list.
Many of the remaining patients will either become too sick to remain eligible for a kidney transplant or die even before they are scheduled for surgery.
More than 200 people in the United States over the age of 70 have donated their kidneys since 1995. However, more organ donors are needed to help other patients in the country.
Dewhurst and Nall's case could encourage more older people to think about donating their organs.