In 1993, when Gregory Smith was a sophomore in high school, he was “on top of the world.” A well-rounded athlete, who played a sport year-round, Greg had just fallen “madly in love” with fellow student, Randi Foraker, who was equally athletic and optimistic.
“Everyone with CKD benefits from transplant, but people who are relatively young and in good shape have many benefits of kidney transplant, including increased energy and well-being."
During a routine physical at school, Greg’s blood pressure tested high. Greg could not play sports until he got the all-clear from a physician. But Greg did not get the all-clear. Instead he learned that he only had one kidney and that he had focal segmental glomerusclerosis, a form of chronic kidney disease (CKD). Without intervention, Greg would eventually progress to end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Greg says, “I was devastated. Everything had been going so well.”
Giving “compatibility” a new meaning
When Greg told Randi, she said, “Don’t worry. If you need it, I’ll give you a kidney one day.” Randi turned out to be a compatible match for Greg. Twenty years later, she would make good on her promise. In the meantime, Greg and Randi got married out of college, pursued advanced education and clinical careers and continued their avid pursuit of athletic activities, even doing triathlons and 24-hour mountain bike races. Yet, despite the fact that he was taking numerous medications, Greg still had debilitating cramps in his legs.
By 2012, 36-year-old Greg’s kidney function had declined to 20 percent. The transplant was scheduled for December 12th at Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University. Greg says, “Cognitively I was prepared, but it was emotionally difficult. Randi was my biggest concern.” Despite all concerns, Randi was in and out of surgery in two hours, and Greg left the hospital after a week. “They told me I could walk, so three days after I got home, I walked four miles. Randi went back to a full schedule of presentations at cardiovascular conferences within six weeks,” Greg says.
The surgeon who performed the transplant, Mitch Henry, MD, Chief of Transplantation at Wexner Medical Center, says, “Everyone with CKD benefits from transplant, but people who are relatively young and in good shape have many benefits of kidney transplant, including increased energy and well-being. Using compatible spouses is very successful—there is a tremendous emotional investment and benefits for both parties.”
By: Nicole Gray