World Kidney Day: Ex-Army Sergeant Overcomes Illness through Kidney Transplantation

Gift of Life Donor Program

Mel poses with his Kidney Transplant Surgeon, Dr. Varma at Geisinger Medical Center.

Wilkes-Barre, PA resident, Mel Talmadge, is a hero for many reasons. He spent much of his life serving the United States as a Sergeant 1st Class in the Army for 20 years, and had a tour in Vietnam in 1970. He also spent over a decade of his life fighting to survive.

Mel never really worried about being sick or getting annual checkups, and was always lucky enough to feel healthy. Then in 1998, he began noticing that his eye sight wasn’t as sharp as it had been. He thought he may just need new glasses and went to the optometrist. That day changed his life forever. As he sat in the optometrist’s chair, no lenses seemed to help him see. The doctor went through lens after lens, and his vision was still blurry. Knowing that something was wrong, the doctor took his blood pressure. It was 220/180. The doctor immediately called 911, asked Mel to remain seated and to wait for the paramedics to arrive. Mel kept saying, “But I feel completely fine.”

There is a reason that high blood pressure is called the silent killer. Often, there are no symptoms before it’s too late. Once he arrived at the hospital, Mel was told that his high blood pressure had nearly destroyed his kidneys, which were now only functioning at 20%. His only option at that point was to go on dialysis. Continue reading