Kidney recipient 30+ years after transplantation | Ohio State Medical Center


GAIL HOGAN: When Rick Johnson was a football
player at West High School, he was young and healthy and feeling strong. Yet only a few
years later, chronic kidney disease would develop, and Rick’s life changed forever.
Initially, Rick spent nine months on dialysis. During this time, doctors discussed living
kidney transplant options with Rick. His family members stepped up to see if any of them would
be a viable organ match. RICK: You know, actually, it wasn’t even a second thought in their minds,
like thinking, “Oh, I can’t do it because I have this to do,” or, “I can’t do it because
of this.” It wasn’t a second thought. They lined up and said, “Here’s my arm, test my
blood, and I want to be it.” HOGAN: Rick’s brother, Monty, was a match, and the transplant
took place at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center in 1979. In spite of finding a good
kidney match, Rick’s body rejected the kidney. Then, it was back to dialysis. This time,
for six years. RICK: I actually came to accept the fact that dialysis is OK, although it
was doing things to my life and my body and my health. But it was OK, A and B: I learned
to appreciate things and people and life more from being on dialysis. And I stopped taking
things for granted. HOGAN: During those six years on dialysis, there were many medical
advances in organ transplantation, including the development of new anti-rejection drugs.
With the advent of a drug called cyclosporine, doctors thought that Rick should try another transplant
with a kidney from his other brother, John. While John was not quite a match, doctors
felt hopeful that the new anti-rejection drug could make it work. That was almost 32 years
ago, and Rick has his brother, John, to thank. RICK: Although he passed away in 2011, he
still lives in me right here. He still is with me right here. HOGAN: RIck has lived
a very full life in the years since his kidney transplant. He has stayed active. He got married
to his wife, Debby, and raised a family. RICK: So yes, I felt great. Can I go and run a marathon
right now? No. Can I run a little bit? Sure. You know. But can I chase the dog around,
can I do some yard work? Absolutely. So no, I’m in no way debilitated because of this
transplant, just the opposite. It’s given me more vitality, more life, more energy. HOGAN: Rick truly has energy — and motivation. He’s been a participant in four World Transplant
Games, in Amsterdam and Australia, Orlando and Columbus. And he brought home two medals
— you could say that Rick finds joy in competing and meeting other transplant patients throughout
the world. In fact, that’s how Rick met his wife. Debby has worked with transplant organizations
for years, and Rick and Debby connected while preparing for one of the transplant games. RICK: I mean, I have a beautiful home, I have a beautiful family, a beautiful wife and actually,
it was all because of the transplant. Had I not had this kidney, I would not be in this
situation — I guarantee you. I know it. You know, so it’s — no — it’s where I am now,
what I have now, it’s all because of the kidney. HOGAN: And Rick thanks the people from the
Ohio State Wexner Medical Center who helped him all those years ago, from dialysis to
transplant. RICK: All of this started 32 years ago when I was — or more than that — when I was
in Columbus. And with those guys, you know, they from step one, from day one, they handled
everything. And with me at a young age as well, me being here — it took a lot to get me here
and a lot of people. And, you know, my brothers. They were one, OSU Hospital one, certainly
my family, you know, and me, you know, doing the right thing with my body. And my organ, you know,
my second chance. HOGAN: This Saturday will be the 32nd anniversary of Rick’s second and
successful kidney transplant. April 4th is always a big day for Rick, and he plans to
celebrate with his family as he does every year on his transplant anniversary.

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