Ex-student donating kidney to professor
39-year-old wants to give back after his dad received heart transplant
BY BRIAN ZIMMERMAN • STAFF WRITER | palladium-item
Jerry Wilde lost his last kidney to cancer in February and began an exhausting regimen of dialysis treatment. Three times a week, Wilde is put on a dialyzer from 10 p.m. to 4:30 a.m., a process that leaves his body weak and his voice faint.
"I'm lucky; I feel pretty well," said Wilde, a 47-year-old college professor at Indiana University East's School of Education.
"I can still work the way my class schedule is right now," he said. "I'm a little worried about my next semester. I don't know what I'm going to do, but I'll figure it out when I get to it."
But the three-year wait doctors estimated for a transplant might no longer be necessary.
Wilde is smiling today. That's because one of his former students, Curtis Deckard, is not only willing to donate one of his kidneys, but Deckard's kidney appears to be a match.
"There's no way I'd make three years on dialysis," Wilde said. "In all honesty, I'd die. I can't see how my body would take it. It's been six months, and I've lost about 40 pounds."
Deckard is smiling, too. The 39-year-old sees the opportunity to donate his kidney as a means to pay it forward after a man donated a heart to his father nearly 22 years ago.
"It will be 22 years in December," Deckard said. "So I'm kind of partial to transplant donors and recipients. That's kind of how I gravitated toward him.
"I had his (Wilde's) daughter in my student-teaching class, so she would keep me updated when all of this was going on in February," he said. "Since my dad was a transplant recipient, I thought this was the perfect way to pay it forward without having to die. Of course, his donor had to pass away for him to get the heart. I wanted to get the word out about transplants and I thought this would be perfect way to do it."
Wilde's illness began last October when he came down with what he thought was a flu. His symptoms subsided but re-emerged weeks later, prompting doctors to run a battery of tests.
The problem was Wilde's only remaining kidney, a transplant he received after doctors diagnosed him with Alport's Syndrome 18 years ago.
Alport's Syndrome is a genetic disease that results in kidney failure and sometimes vision loss.
"I had my transplant for 17 years," Wilde said. "In fact, even up until they did the surgery to take it out, it still worked perfect. It was too cruel to be true. Every single doctor would say, 'Wow, I've never seen that kind of thing.'
"The tumor was 12 centimeters, which is huge apparently," he said. "Doctors told me anytime a tumor is above 4 centimeters that they end up taking out the kidney and the tumor because even if they can cut out the tumor that leaves little cancerous cells and it would just come back eventually."
Wilde and Deckard are still waiting to schedule the surgery to perform the transplantation, which will take place at Indiana University Hospital in Indianapolis.
Until then, Wilde is turning his experiences into a documentary with help from Jay Barbre, a filmmaker and colleague at IU East.
Wilde said he wants to raise awareness of the need for organ donors. Statistics show that an average of 17 people die each day while waiting for a life-saving transplant, and every 12 minutes someone is added to a transplant waiting list. In 2009, 29,000 people were saved through organ donation.
More than 100,000 people, including more than 800 Hoosiers, are waiting for life-saving organ transplants.
"The thing about it is that there's just so many people that are sick, and they just don't need to be if we just had enough people who were willing to sign up to be an organ donor," Wilde said. "One doctor said to me that organ transplantation is about as close we have to a miracle. You take somebody who is really sick and we make them well in the matter of one procedure. And it's kind of true."
It was for Wilde nearly 20 years ago.
"I've gone through this before," he said. "It's remarkable how quickly you start feeling better. You're sore from your abdominal muscles being cut open, but you just can't believe how much better you feel. The last time they did this they made me stay home for three weeks. The last week I just was racked with guilt because I felt better than I had in two years."
Deckard said his father's donor never had the chance to see what his generosity afforded him.
"Look at what he would have missed: Seven grandkids, my graduation, my wedding and my kids," Deckard said. "That's just because somebody said, 'Look, I'll donate when I die.'"