By Tonya Abeln
August marks 25 years of the Kentucky Circuit Court Clerks’ Trust For Life (TFL), Kentucky’s Organ & Tissue Awareness Program. “We’ve come a long way since 1992, but with nearly 117,000 people awaiting a life-saving transplant in the United States, including the 1,000 patients in Kentucky, our work to encourage Kentuckians to register as donors is still so important,” said David L. Nicholson, Jefferson Circuit Court Clerk.
Here, one local resident shares with us his story of gaining the gift of life.
Andreas Price was diagnosed at the age of 15 with chronic glomerulonephritis. “I woke up on March 3, 1980 and I had a terrible headache, and blurred and double vision,” he recalls. “I wasn’t able to really function normally and I ended up having a seizure.”
Tests indicated that his kidneys had shut down completely and he started dialysis that day.
Five years later, Andreas was put on the transplant waiting list. He waited four long years but only received his donated kidney after his family experienced firsthand what it meant to give the gift of life.
On Christmas morning, December 25, 1988 the entire Price family was in church for services. Andreas, now 23 years old and still on the transplant waiting list, was singing in the choir. He had just finished singing his mother Nancy’s favorite song when the unimaginable happened.
“My mother had high blood pressure and although she was on medication, an aneurism burst in her brain,” Andreas recounts.
Nancy Price was rushed to the hospital where it took several hours for the neurologists to determine her status and condition. The following day, Andreas’s mother had been declared brain dead.
The family had already decided that if Nancy was eligible to be a donor they would consent to donation. Nancy had made her wishes to donate known and Andreas’s father, Charles, knew all too well the issues of transplantation and suitable donors, especially in the African-American community.
“There was a discussion about whether or not I should receive one of my mother’s kidneys but I had a cold so I was ineligible to undergo major surgery,” Andreas says.
On December 26, after meeting with a transplant coordinator from Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates (KODA), the Price family gave their consent and Nancy was able to donate her kidneys, liver and corneas.
“My mom was a teacher in the public school system,” Andreas recalls proudly. “She impacted so many lives over the years and she was such a caring, giving person that it seemed only right for her to donate. Also, you have the idea that your mother lives on in the midst of something as traumatic and tragic as this, and being able to give someone else such a selfless gift helped us with our healing and grieving process.”
On May 26, 1989, five months to the day after his mother’s donation, Andreas received a phone call at work from his nephrologist telling him there was a kidney available and Andreas was a biological match.
The only information that Andreas had about his donor was that he was an older, white male from Texas. He still thinks about his donor and how his gift has blessed him many years later.
“My transplant allowed me to work full-time, advance in the workplace and graduate with a second bachelor’s degree in theology in 1995 and eventually a master’s degree in divinity,” recounts Andreas.
However, in 2000 Andreas was told that his lab tests indicated that after 11 years, the function of his transplanted kidney was starting to decline. His condition was monitored for two years and in December 2002 he was put back on the transplant waiting list. On March 14, 2003 he went back on dialysis treatments.
“Being familiar with the process I wasn’t frightened, but I wasn’t looking forward to it either. It’s extremely surreal being on the transplant waiting list again. I have gotten calls that a kidney was available but unlike my first experience, I wasn’t a match.”
While he waits, Andreas has been actively educating people around the state of Kentucky about the power of organ donation as he is a donor family member, transplant recipient and currently on the transplant waiting list. He often encounters people with religious concerns about donation, and as a man of faith, he is an ideal resource in this cases. “Some people believe that you need everything God gave you to be allowed into heaven. I usually tell them that if that were the case then we’d have to have all our hair and teeth or we wouldn’t get into heaven. Donation is the gift of life and there is no greater gift.” VT