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The gift of life

Man returns to his normal routine thanks to his wife's gesture
The gift of life
Polycystic kidney disease once robbed Kevin Dahly of his ability to play with his three young sons. Thanks to the transplanted kidney he received from his wife, Carol, Kevin is back in the game and leads an active life.
  Kevin Dahly has difficulty describing his gratitude to his wife, Carol, for donating one of her kidneys to him.

“She definitely gave me the gift of life,” he said. “What she did is beyond words.”

The May 11, 2010, transplant means the 48-year old Minot man no longer has to spend three to four hours for three days each week on dialysis, and life is returning to normal for the couple and their three young sons, ages 7, 10 and 13.

Dahly required the transplant because of an inherited kidney disorder called polycystic kidney disease. Normal kidney tissue is replaced by fluidfilled sacs or cysts of varying sizes that become larger as the disease progresses, resulting in loss of kidney function. Eventually, the patient requires either kidney dialysis or a kidney transplant.

His condition began to worsen in May 2009. His blood pressure and creatinine level, which reflects how well the kidney functions, began rising. “I was so weak and tired I could barely climb stairs,” he said.

By December, medication was no longer effectively controlling the disease, and he began dialysis in Minot.

“After dialysis, I would have to tell the boys I was too tired to do anything with them,” he said. “That was hard because we were so active before.”

Dialysis also restricted him from leaving town unless arrangements could be made to complete the treatment in another town or a session was omitted with the doctor’s approval.

He began the preliminary workups required for a kidney transplant and placement on the transplant waiting list. The couple also began researching transplant centers. Sanford Health was on the top of their list.

In 1988, Sanford Health became the first hospital in North Dakota to perform kidney transplants. Prior to that time, patients traveled to Minneapolis or Rochester, Minn., and required a lengthy stay after the surgery. Nearly 350 patients have benefited from transplants performed at Sanford Health. Patients travel from central and western North Dakota, eastern Montana and northern South Dakota for the procedure.

“We chose Sanford Health because of how long they have been performing transplants and also for the convenience aspect,” Kevin said.

  Dr. Nadim Koleilat Nadim
Koleilat, MD

Transplant surgery

“We were only two hours away, and I could have my blood work drawn in Minot and the results sent to Sanford Health after the surgery.” “The service allows patients to stay close to home and loved ones,” said Dr. Nadim Koleilat, transplant surgeon at Sanford Health. “Because we are all part of the same region, the chances of getting a kidney here are the same as in Minneapolis or Rochester.”

For potential transplant patients who do not have a living donor, there is an average of a three-year wait for a kidney from a deceased donor. Often, family members and friends volunteer to become donors.

“If there is a living donor, related or unrelated, we can get the workup ready within four months and proceed with the transplant,” Dr. Koleilat said.

After learning outcomes are better with a living donor and the wait time is not an issue, Carol decided to undergo testing to see if she was a match. Around the time Kevin was ready to be placed on the transplant waiting list, they learned Carol’s blood type was compatible.

While Kevin was relieved to have a match, he was also concerned about any potential problems for Carol because of the surgery.

“I was apprehensive about the surgery with having three children at home,” Carol said. “Now, I wish I hadn’t worried as much. The recovery time with the laparoscopic surgery was minimal. I feel great.”

Both describe their care at Sanford Health as “outstanding.”

“It still amazes me how quickly the kidney started functioning,” Kevin said. “The day after surgery I realized how much better I was feeling.”

He is back to riding bike and throwing the ball to his sons.

Both Kevin and Carol encourage others to consider organ donation, either as a living donor or by signing a donor card.

“Organ donation is an opportunity to change someone’s life,” Kevin said.

Click here for information about Sanford Transplant Center or call (701) 323-2838.


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