In 2014, for the second year, Main Line Health participated in the Donate Life Hospital Challenge, sponsored by Gift of Life Donor Program and The Hospital & Health System Association of Pennsylvania. The challenge tasks Pennsylvania hospitals with raising employee awareness about the importance of organ, tissue, and eye donation.
For Jeff Peplow, organ donation wasn’t just something he was hearing about at work. Although the Donate Life Challenge had just begun its second year at Main Line Health, organ donation was something Jeff had been dealing with for three years.
In 2011, after a long overdue physical showed signs of blood and protein in his urine and high blood pressure, Jeff was diagnosed with fibrillary glomerulonephritis (GN) a disease which would eventually lead to kidney disease. His situation was a dire one: he had lost his kidney function and required frequent dialysis treatments just to stay alive.
All In the Family
His first offer for a kidney donor didn’t come from a stranger. Instead, it came from his brother.
“My brother [Charlie] said he wanted to donate a kidney,” says Jeff. “I was grateful, but I know his wife has kidney issues as well. I didn’t want to take away that opportunity for her to receive it in the future, should she ever need it.”
Despite Jeff’s protests, his brother decided to move forward with his decision. After four months of ultrasounds, CT scans, and testing for conditions like cancer and diabetes to determine whether or not the two would be a match, Jeff received devastating news: Charlie’s kidney wasn’t a match.
As the search continued for a new donor, Jeff’s symptoms continued to worsen: fatigue, headaches, daily dialysis treatments, and a strict diet were just a few of the side effects he dealt with. Although he continued working through the entire process, he was concerned that a full-time job would eventually become too much to handle.
Then, in the summer of 2012, he received the good news: doctors had found a match. But it wasn’t just a match for him. Through a kidney paired exchange, Jeff and two patients in Missouri and Florida would all be receiving a transplant.
A kidney paired exchange refers to a kidney swap among three different donors and recipients. In this case, although Charlie wasn’t a match for Jeff, he was a match for a recipient in Missouri, whose donor matched a recipient in Florida, whose donor matched Jeff. Three mismatched sets of donors had found their matches.
On September 11, 2013, all three donor recipients received life-saving kidney transplants. Charlie’s kidney was removed and flown to Missouri for transplantation, and an organ was flown from Florida to Allentown, where Jeff’s surgeon was waiting.
Life After a Kidney Transplant
Jeff returned to his full-time job as a telecommunications technician only two months after his surgery, in November 2013. Almost immediately after the surgery, he says, his body was back to normal.
“I could feel the change almost immediately,” he says. “My body chemistry was getting back to normal. It was getting back to doing the functions it’s supposed to.”
Today, almost two years after his surgery, he continue to feel healthy and celebrate a second chance at life. In 2011, before he began dialysis, Jeff embarked on a cruise with family members. Earlier this year, Jeff took what he likes to call “a victory cruise” to mark a successful transplant, his 50th birthday, and a healthy life.
Are you an organ donor? Visit donors1.org to learn more about organ donation or register to become a donor today.