Locust Grove couple, Keri (from left) and James “J.D.” Van Sickle, pose with Sheree Bryant, who is, herself, waiting for both a kidney and a liver transplant, following the couple’s recent kidney transplant surgeries.
“We’ve had to put a lot of plans on hold because of my health,” said J.D. Van Sickle, following successful kidney transplant surgery.
“I was in stage four renal failure and the future was very uncertain,” he continued. “But today, I have a second chance, and we plan on celebrating our 37th [wedding] anniversary next month,” added the father and grandfather, acknowledging that his wife, Keri’s, gift of one of her kidneys has likely given him a new lease on life.
The Locust Grove couple were married in 1974, in a simple ceremony in Springfield, Mo. Over the decades, they built a life together as educators, parents, and grandparents.
As a result of Keri’s gift to her husband, the prognosis for their continued journey together is a lot brighter.
Keri Van Sickle donated the kidney to her ailing husband, in a procedure performed Aug. 11, at the Piedmont Transplant Institute, in Atlanta.
The couple is expected to return home, this week, as they recover from surgery, according to Jim Taylor, media relations representative with Piedmont Healthcare.
“Seeing my husband so sick was difficult for me,” said Keri. “I was surprised to hear I was a match, and grateful to be able to help. It is our hope that people understand there are so many others still waiting.”
She is right. In Georgia, there are 3,254 on waiting lists for organ transplants — 2,963 for kidneys, according to Carlos Zayas, a transplant nephrologist, who is part of the team involved in the Van Sickles’ transplant surgery.
He is also the medical director for kidney and pancreas transplantation at the Piedmont Transplant Institute.
“We do about 1,200 potential cases for kidney and pancreas transplants at Piedmont,” said Zayas. “My job is to select them, get them through surgery, and do all the post-surgical care.”
Zayas said he is able to relate to patients needing transplants. He said he was placed on a transplant waiting list, himself, in February 2009. His was a need for a bone marrow transplant.
The medical doctor was diagnosed with peripheral non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, an aggressive form of lymphoid cancer, which gave him an estimated 10 percent chance of survival.
“I asked God to give me another chance,” said Zayas. “I knew that my family [a wife and three young children] needed me, and that I could still help so many patients. I asked for one more opportunity to make a difference as a husband, father and physician.”
Zayas said the process took him nine months before he was able to find a donor match in one of his eight siblings, a younger brother who underwent the transplant procedure with his older brother 13 months ago.
“It was awesome, a miracle,” Zayas said. “I’m so grateful. I don’t have a way to repay him. Sometimes, we do things in our life, and we don’t understand the consequences of what we do. But our actions can have a domino effect, and that’s what I think my brother did for me.”
To learn more about becoming an organ donor, visit www.lifelinkfound.org.