Gabe has had more than his fair share of medical issues over the last 8 years. After being diagnosed with a rare form of Autoimmune Pancreatitis in 2006, it was discovered that Gabe suffered from a form of IgG4 Disease (a broad autoimmune disorder). Since 2006, his pancreas, liver and kidneys have been affected. Basically, his body attacks itself. If not treated in time, his organs are affected to the point they no longer function properly.
Gabe was diagnosed with End Stage Renal Disease in 2011, after a doctor left an autoimmune disease that attacked his kidney untreated for so long that it caused the kidneys to shut down. By the time the disease was treated, he was already at Stage 5 kidney failure and needed a new kidney. So began the transplant journey....
Gabe was blessed to have so many people step forward to be potential donors and he was extremely fortunate to have three people be viable blood type matches. Ultimately, his mom (our hero) agreed to donate her kidney. UVA was selected as the transplant center and plans began.
Originally, the hope had been to have the transplant done in early 2013. The doctors wanted to get the transplant in BEFORE Gabe actually needed dialysis and more imprortantly, Gabe and Ashley were expecting a baby in July! But our plans are not always God's plans. Gabe was hit with a severe case of pneumonia in February, which delayed the surgery. Once the doctors were comfortable that his body was healing properly (after what felt like 100 trips to UVA and 1000 chest x-rays!), May 9th was set as the transplant date. Again, God had other plans. At the pre-op appointment on May 2nd, it was discovered that his platelet levels were dangerously low, with no explainable reason for the drastic change. On top of that, his creatinine levels (which had just been checked the previous week) had plummeted to the point that dialysis was necessary before a transplant could happen. His kidney's finally quit working. It was an absolutely devastating blow.
The doctors set a tentative date of June 13th as the next possible surgery date, and sent Gabe to a blood specialist at UVA to try to figure out what exactly was causing the low platelet count. After testing for every possible cause, they decided he had a form of ITP (another autoimmune disorder that causes platelet counts to rise and fall). Unfortunately, his platelet count was not high enough for the June 13th surgery and August 22nd was given as the next transplant date.
Gabe started dialysis in May and was a trooper for the three months of treatments (awesome nurses at the dialysis center certainly helped!) and their baby girl, Rachel, was born on July 12th.
Fast forward to August. The week before the scheduled transplant, Gabe had his pre-op appointment. The transplant team seemed very positive that the surgery would happen this time and had plans in place fbar problem solving any potential issues that might arise (ie. his platelet levels dropping again). Mama's blood was drawn and sent down to confirm again that it was compatible with Gabe's, which it was.
The next step was for Mama, Dad and Bethany to come down the Sunday before surgery. Mama's pre-op appointment was on Tuesday and all went well.
Thursday, August 22, 2013 was a long awaited day and finally arrived. Both Mama and Gabe were hungry as they couldn't eat 48hrs prior to surgery but we were at UVA for our schedule 10am time. And so began the day of waiting. It took 2 hours for Gabe and Mama to be called back to their rooms where they were prepped for surgery. In Mama's room, the doctor found the heart murmur that she has had since she was child. Even when the doctor voiced his concerns about having the surgery, Mama declared "Even if I die on the table today, my boy will be getting my kidney!" She really is amazing. Meanwhile, in Gabe's room an intern informed him and Ashley that his platelets had dropped again and he would need to find out whether the surgery would proceed! So, the prayers started. At around 1:30, Mama went into the operating room and Gabe followed shortly after at 2. The surgery was finally happening! The kidney was removed, transferred to Gabe's room, and eventually transplant. Mama's portion of the procedure went really well and she was in a recovery from by 5:15. Gabe's portion of the surgery took longer due to some small complications; kidney was too big for the normal spot due Gabe's smaller size so they had to place it in the abdomen, both of Mama's kidneys have 2 vessels to them (when normal people have one kidney with two and one kidney with one), the vessel that the doctors attached kinked and they didn't see it until after he was closed up and having an ultrasound, and so they had to open him again and attach the other vessel instead. But it worked and surgery seemed to be a success! Gabe was in a recovery room by 8:30.
After a rough couple of days trying to get Gabe's pain under control and waiting to see if the new kidney would work, things finally turned around on Sunday. By the time Gabe was discharged on Monday, his creatinine levelwas down from 4.6 to 2.1!
Just 3 short weeks after surgery, Gabe's creatinine levels are back within a normal range and he is feeling better than he has in almost three years.
While the couple has good insurance, some of the transplant procedure, medications and the additional infusions Gabe needs because of the ITP are not fully covered and there will be a large amount needed to be paid out of pocket.
We greatly appreciate our family and friends and all they have done. We could not have gotten to this point without you.