Ridgeley man donating kidney to stepson

First organ, given by friend, failed after 4 years

RIDGELEY, W.Va. — Lance Davis isn’t feeling anxious about undergoing kidney transplant surgery Tuesday.

For one thing, he’s been through it before.

A diabetic since he was 11, Davis received a kidney from a selfless friend four years ago. Now that kidney has failed.

On Tuesday, Davis, 39, is scheduled to be the first of at least 13 recipients in a large kidney exchange at Washington Hospital Center and Georgetown University Hospital.

This time, his stepfather is stepping up to save his life.

“With Lance being on dialysis — it’s not a good way to live,” said John Lyon, 62, of Ridgeley, who married Davis’ mother, Phyllis, six years ago.

“People were coming forward to help him, but for one reason or another things weren’t working out. So I finally just thought to myself, ‘Well, I don’t need two kidneys. Why not give one to Lance?’ ”

Though Lyon isn’t a match for Davis, his willingness to donate a kidney on Davis’ behalf guarantees that Davis will receive a compatible kidney. That’s how a kidney exchange works.

Surgeons at Washington Hospital Center have performed at least two exchanges in the last 18 months, the most recent a 13-way exchange in December, with 26 operations taking place over six days.

The program is possible because of a new medical procedure called plasmapheresis, which lowers a person’s antibodies in order to accept another person’s organ.

“I think some years ago, this is something we would have never tried because we would have thought that these incompatibilities were too insurmountable,” Jimmy Light, director of transplantation services at WHC, said in a press release following a successful exchange last summer.

“Perhaps they were insurmountable with the technologies we had back then. But now we know these things are doable, and now, virtually anyone with a willing, living donor can have a transplant.”

Davis, a graduate of Fort Hill High School and Frostburg State University, was scheduled to check in at Washington Hospital Center today to receive the plasmapheresis treatment. His surgeon — Dr. Jimmy Light — also performed Davis’ first kidney transplant.

“Basically, that kidney lasted until around last fall,” said Davis, who has been receiving dialysis three days a week since January. “They thought it would last 10 to 20 years, but for whatever reason it wasn’t holding up the way it should have. They didn’t really give a distinctive reason why.”

The man who donated that kidney, Cumberland artist Greg Malloy, is a hero to Davis and his family.

“We think he’s a phenomenal person,” said Phyllis. “We’ll always have him in our hearts.”

“He’s just one of those kind of people who will do anything for anybody,” Davis said. “It’s nice to know there are still people like that.”

John can count himself in that number. Owner of JJ’s & Sons Pizzeria in Cumberland, he is expected to be in the hospital for several days — and in recovery for several weeks — after his surgery, scheduled for Friday.

“The emotions — just knowing I have a husband who cares so much about me that he’s willing to give my son a kidney to have a better life,” said Phyllis, her eyes filling with tears.

“That is what family is all about. You know, we’ve had our ups and downs with family. ... We all work together and work through it.”

To keep up the spirits of Davis and John in the days leading up to surgery, Davis’ brother, Brandon, his wife, Julie, and their son, 8-month-old Jaxon, came to Ridgeley from their home in Connecticut for the weekend.

The Lyons’ first grandchild — and Davis’ first nephew — Jaxon cooed in Davis’ lap Thursday.

“We thought we’d come and kind of cheer these guys up with Jaxon,” said Brandon, 31. “Hopefully, with the kidney transplant (Lance) will be able to get out and do more things like come to Connecticut and spend some time with his nephew.”