Littlefield man has both kidneys removed due to disease
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Story last updated at 5/12/2010 - 12:30 am
Most people have a list of problems to solve.
Larmon Smith has only one: Finding a new kidney.
The Littlefield man has polycystic kidney disease - an inherited condition that progressively damages the kidneys until they don't work anymore. His right kidney was removed last July, he said. Last week, doctors at Covenant Medical Center took his left kidney out.last July, he said. Last week, doctors at Covenant Medical Center took his left kidney out. Now he's wondering how he'll get a new one.
His brother can't donate - he already had a transplant for the same disease. Neither can his closest friend, who was disappointed to find her blood type doesn't match Smith's O-positive type. "When they ran the initial tests, I was A-positive," said Terri Carroll. "I burst into tears when I found out."
Those tests were done more than two years ago, when Smith's kidneys were still inside him. As the cysts grew and multiplied, though, Smith became sick. Doctors told him it was time to remove them, he said.
Carroll is worried a stranger won't donate. "I just don't think people want to do something like that for someone they don't know," she said. If they knew him, they might think differently, she said. "If there's one thing I can say about Larmon it's that he likes doing for others," said Carroll, who was married to
Smith for 11 years. When they divorced, they remained best friends, she said. "He's the kindest man."
More than 89,000 American patients are waiting for an organ transplant, according to the National Kidney Foundation website. In 2004, 16,000 kidney transplants were performed in the U.S., but 3,886 patients died while waiting for life-saving transplants.
University Medical Center - the only kidney transplant center in Lubbock - did 50 kidney transplants last year and recipients waited 18 to 24 months for transplants, said Wade Crowson, director of the hospital's kidney transplant program.
Smith, 49, was diagnosed two decades ago. For about four years, he has been helping his body flush out toxins by doing dialysis at home, he said. Crowson said people like Smith can live for decades on dialysis.
Smith had his bad days, though. "Some days I feel sick and real sluggish," he said. "I feel like I don't want to do anything." Until, May 2007, he was a medication aide at Heritage Oaks, a Lubbock nursing home. He quit when the disease affected peripheral blood flow, making him weak and prone to falling. "I thought it was better to resign than to continue and end up hurting myself or someone else," he said. It's frustrating for Smith, who'd like to return to school and become a medical social worker.
"I think it makes him feel worthless because he's unable to do things like he used to," Carroll said. "I've come in and heard him begging to God 'please help me.'" Smith is looking for a donor with type O blood, he said. He's smart to seek a living donor, Crowson said. "A living donor transplant lasts two to three times longer than a deceased donor," he said of the success rate.
Just over half the kidneys transplanted at UMC last year were from living donors, Crowson said.
"A lot of times it's family and friends, but we've had an increase in the number of (strangers) who have said they'd like to donate a kidney," he said.
Medical costs for donors are covered by Medicare or the recipient's insurance, but donors are not compensated for travel or time off work, Crowson said.
"If they have a desk job, they can be back at work within a week if they feel up to it," he said. Smith feels uneasy asking people to consider choosing him, he said. "I feel kind of selfish asking people to donate to me," he said. "But at the same time, (potential donors) might not be a match for me, but they might be for someone else."
Anyone interested in becoming a donor can call UMC's kidney program at 761-0710.