Just before Father’s Day, dad donates kidney to 1 of 10 children
(CBS) Father’s Day is normally a time when kids give their dads a gift, but it’s the other way around for the Lipscomb family this year. David Lipscomb, who recently donated his kidney to his teenage son, said he wouldn’t have it any other way.
In 2005, when Gage was just 2 years old, the toddler began to have chronic fevers.
“We just knew that something just didn’t feel good. He was crying a lot, and we’d been taking him to doctors, and they really just didn’t see what was going on,” Gage’s mom Terrie Lipscomb told CBS News affiliate KBTX-TV.
Gage’s doctor diagnosed an acute urinary tract infection, and further tests showed his kidneys were in trouble.
“His urinary tract had problems, and it affected his kidneys,” his surgeon, Dr. Christine O’Mahony, surgical director of kidney transplantation at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, told CBS News.
By age 6, Gage had to have one kidney removed due to infection. Over time, though, the other kidney failed.
Now, at 14, Gage needed a new kidney.
“He was not yet on dialysis, but if he didn’t get a kidney transplant soon, he would have had to have gone on dialysis,” said O’Mahony.
So Gage’s dad stepped up and became his donor.
Before Wednesday’s surgery, David, 57, a father of 10 children (and two sons the family adopted as adults), said, “He’s going to get one of mine now, and we’re hoping he’s going to sprout up like a weed, and everything goes good.”
The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs that sit just below the back of the rib cage, on either side of the spine. Healthy kidneys get rid of the body’s waste and extra fluid — they filter about 120 to 150 quarts of blood a day and produce about 1 to 2 quarts of urine.
When they stop working, in cases like Gage’s, the body can’t clean out that waste properly. Dialysis helps remove waste from the body, but it can be time-consuming and tiring, so for Gage, who loves playing sports and is very active, a transplant was the best option.
Before the surgery, Gage told KBTX-TV, “It’s probably best that he’s giving it to me because it’s just the best match and everything, and so it should work out the best, but also he’s my dad – it’s just good.”
Early Wednesday morning while the teen was being prepped for surgery at Texas Children’s, his dad was in a nearby operating room at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center having laparoscopic surgery – a minimally invasive operation – to remove his kidney.
“The two hospitals are attached,” said O’Mahony. “Dr. Link, the urologist who took out the kidney in David, started around 8 a.m. in the morning.”
The timing of the two events is important.
“We want to minimize the time between the kidney coming out of the donor and implanting it into the patient. I walked over to St. Luke’s to help take out David’s kidney with Dr. Link. The kidney still had blood in it so we had to flush the blood out,” O’Mahony said.
Then, she said, “We literally packed it up in a cooler so it stays cold and walked back to Texas Children’s and unpacked it” and “sewed” David’s kidney inside of Gage.
The surgery is not uncommon, and doctors typically leave the old kidney in a patient if it’s not infected.
“When someone has a kidney transplant, most people are walking around with three kidneys. We put the new kidney in a different place,” she said, noting that Gage’s went into his pelvis.
It’s always better to get a kidney from someone you’re related to, and one from a living donor is best, she said.
“We won’t need to give as much medication afterward if there is a match,” O’Mahony said, referring to the immunosuppressant drugs prescribed for transplant patients to keep them from rejecting their donor organ.
The surgery took about six hours, and less than one day later O’Mahony reported that the father and son were on the mend.
“Both are doing very, very well. The dad is up and walking around and wants to leave the hospital already. Gage’s kidney is working wonderfully. He looks great. He’s smiling,” she said.
Gage is strong and active – he loves playing soccer, football and basketball – so that will help him heal too, his surgeon said. And he has lots of support while he’s recovering; he’s the ninth out of 10 biological siblings, and he has two adopted brothers, ranging in age from 11 to 34.
“There were too many of them to fit in the waiting room, so they had to go to a separate waiting room. They were easy to find, though. They made it really easy on me. They were all wearing green T-shirts,” O’Mahony said.
The shirts, made by one of David Lipscomb’s daughter-in-laws, say: “Team Lipscomb #Gagestrong #Davidstrong #KidneyTransplant.”
“There were a lot of people with green T-shirts and big smiles,” Mahoney said.
Terrie Lipscomb told CBS News on Friday that she’s relieved the surgery is behind them.
“We’re on the other side. The wait was a lot worse,” she said, adding that Gage, while very sleepy and having normal post-surgery pain, is doing “extremely well.” His new kidney is starting to do its job, lab tests show.
David, too, was experiencing post-surgery pain and some bladder function issues, but the father and son were able to talk via Facetime.
“When he saw him, David said to Gage, ‘You look as bad as I feel,'” Terrie said.
David hopes to be discharged soon so he can go straight to Gage’s room. The teen will stay another five to seven days at Texas Children’s Hospital, through Father’s Day, which Terrie said the whole family is looking forward to celebrating.