Jesse Simmons, Roxanne Noyes, Richard and Kelsie Simmons. Roxanne is waiting to give her kidney to a stranger in exchange for a donation of a kidney for Richard.
Some people may not know much about living kidney donors and Roxanne Noyes would like to help educate the public. She is on a waiting list now to give a kidney to a person she doesn't know in exchange for a kidney for her son-in-law.
Richard Simmons is the son-in-law, he said, "My kidneys have failed and I am on dialysis. This is the second time around for me. My kidneys failed seven years ago and I had a transplant at that time. That transplant lasted until two years ago when the kidney failed and I have been back on dialysis the past two years. I go to dialysis on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday for four hours. It makes me really tired. I am not able to work right now. I have hopes to get back into school.
"My mother-in-law Roxanne has tested for a transplant. We are on the paired kidney exchange list. It's like a chain, her kidney will go to someone else, and I will receive a kidney that's a match for me. It will be from a live donor, too. A kidney has a better chance of lasting if it's a live donor. My wife, Kelsie and I live in Wellington with our son Jesse. Going through this has really made my family appreciate their good health a lot more. It makes you realize your health may not always be there. When you are healthy you can take a lot for granted. For 22 years I had good health and then when I was 22 I started getting sick. I really expected it would pass but it didn't. My wife and my mother made me go to the hospital. I had to be life flighted. My kidney's weren't functioning at all and I began dialysis immediately. I was on dialysis at that time for three years before my first transplant.
"My first kidney lasted almost three years. I was really doing good after that first transplant. But, when we went up for my labs, they said I had a bad virus. They did everything they could over the next three to four months to save that kidney including plasma exchange. We really tried to make it last. But, then I started bleeding internally and they had to remove the kidney.
"My younger sister is getting tested now to see if she is a match, but more than likely we will be relying on a stranger who is willing to donate their kidney. We encourage people to get tested. With the Good Samaritan program you can donate a kidney to a complete stranger. We are involved with the Paired Exchange," said Simmons.
Noyes said, "I am holding my kidney hostage until we get a kidney for Richard. We will go in about the same time when we get the call that a match is found for him. Sometimes there can be chains of up to 50 people before you get the kidney to the right person."
Noyes and Simmons have been waiting for four months already. Noyes said, "I have been trying to get qualified for a year. I didn't realize the extensive testing they put you through. I had to save a day's worth of urine and take it in to be tested. They give you a sociological evaluation. You have to take classes. They test you for diabetes. They make sure you drink enough water. They do blood tests, heart tests, stress tests and an MRI to check your kidneys. They encourage you to stay healthy, because you never know when you might get the call.
"I'm not really concerned about the surgery, but I want to be prepared. They say if you are active you will be better off after the surgery. The donor has a harder time recovering than the recipient of the kidney. They will take the kidney out through the stomach. Your body will adjust to having one kidney and it will grow. The recipient will feel much better and the donor will feel a little sick. The donor will never have complete kidney function again but 70-90 percent which is fine. Having one kidney doesn't put you at risk. I have talked to a lot of people who have donated kidneys and they have been fine. You need to make sure you drink plenty of water."
Simmons said, "The donor needs to drink plenty of water, but I'm on water restrictions. Mainly because my body retains all the water."
When Simmons was asked how he feels about his mother-in-law donating a kidney he replied, "I am excited. It's a nice thing for her to do. I know the surgery is going to be tough and I hate to see her go through pain."
Noyes said, "With a living kidney, the kidney will have a longer life. Cadaver kidneys statistically do not last as long as living kidneys. He will have a better shot at a healthier life. He is so tied down, this will give him a chance to go back to school. Before he was going to school while on dialysis and one of his teachers gave him an outstanding student award. He is trying to better himself, with a new kidney he will get that chance. Dialysis runs your life. You never know when you are going to be sick. It's really hard to find a job that will work around his dialysis. They are trying really hard to stay afloat and I just want him to be healthy. I want him to be healthy enough to have more children and to be here to help raise them."
Simmons said his wife Kelsie has been so supportive of him. She works as a cosmetologist at The Cut Above in Price. She said, "Sometimes when he's sick he is irritable. He can drive himself to and from dialysis sometimes, but if he's really sick he will call me to come and get him. Our son Jesse is pretty sympathetic with his Dad. He always asks him how he is doing," said Kelsie.
Simmons said he has had the best caregivers he doesn't think he would be here without them.
Kelsie said her mother's desire to give her husband a kidney is the greatest selfless act she could do. It's said somewhere that God gave us two kidneys but our bodies only need one, so we can share the other one with someone in need. "Richard wouldn't let me be tested, he says that Jesse needs at least one healthy parent. It's truly the best gift to have someone help your husband be healthy."
If the family wants to travel they must find the closest dialysis to where they want to go and find out their schedule. He has been to the Cedar City dialysis center and is familiar with it now. They look forward to the day when they can take off and not worry about dialysis schedules.
For now the pair is in constant contact by cell phone waiting for the time the call comes in that says a kidney for Richard has been found. Things will move swiftly when that call finally comes in.
Little Jesse age 3 isn't worried or nervous when he has to go to the doctor. Doctors and hospitals are all pretty routine to him now as he accompanies his dad to the doctor. The nurses love it when Jesse comes to visit at the hospital.
It was heartbreaking for the family when the first kidney transplant failed. They are hoping for better results this time around.
Noyes said, "I just want people to be aware of this kidney exchange program. If we can encourage someone else to get involved then someone might get healthy and get off of dialysis. There are many people who don't know about living donors. We want to spread the word. You don't have to pay to be a living donor. All costs are covered by the recipients insurance. The only out of pocket expenses are travel, food, and time off work.
"It's so hard to see those sick people. They are just miserable, if I can help just one of them then I want to. When I first found out I couldn't give my kidney directly to Richard I was bummed, but now that doesn't matter as long as someone gives him a kidney, it will be worth it.
"I would like to see people take advantage of this program. I would like to see everyone get off dialysis. I am really not nervous. I am anticipating it. My husband died of cancer and I remember feeling so helpless. There was just nothing I could do for him. I just watched him suffer. But, with Richard, I feel like this is something I can do to help."
Kelsie is a bit apprehensive about the upcoming surgeries because she is being hit with a double whammy having her husband and her mother in surgery. Noyes expects to be off work right around six weeks, but recovery times are different for each person.
When a match for Richard is found it must be compatible blood wise and also the antigens in his blood must match with those of his donor which can be difficult. Doctors tell the pair that August or September will be the best case scenario for when the surgeries might take place. There are a lot of factors which must match up so rejection can be avoided and the new kidney can function properly in the recipient. If you have the desire to donate a kidney there are many different programs you could participate in. The University of Utah hospital will help find the right program for you.