After Many Setbacks, Son Gives Father a New Kidney
You couldn’t blame Nick Green for being discouraged. Would his effort to save his father’s life ever succeed?
Nick had watched his father, Frank, become so debilitated with Stage IV kidney disease that Frank had to give up his job as a baker.
“My dad is a very hard worker and when he couldn’t physically make it to work, that’s when I knew something had to be done,” says Nick, 23. The family, including Nick’s mom and older brother, lives in Norristown.
Nick was among the extended family members and friends who were tested at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia to see if they were candidates to donate a kidney. When Nick turned out to be a match, he was ecstatic. That was in May of 2019 – 15 months ago.
Many Obstacles, then COVID
Then came one setback after another. First, it was determined that Nick’s blood pressure was too high. After months of a successful effort to reduce it, tests determined that he had a kidney stone. Would it be safe to remove one of his kidneys? After that issue was resolved, tests showed that he was too dehydrated to undergo surgery.
When everything was finally a go in March and potential dates for transplant surgery were being discussed, COVID-19 hit the fan. Einstein had to halt all living-donor transplants for safety reasons.
“It kind of had me feeling hopeless in a way,” Nick says. “Every time we were getting close, something else popped up.”
Nick continued working in maintenance at the Elmwood Park Zoo in Norristown throughout the virus surge – though the zoo was closed. That added to his list of worries.
“I was worried about getting sick,” he says. “I felt like we were all going to get it.”
Meanwhile, Frank was in and out of the hospital with complications, including heart failure. He attributes his kidney disease to the diabetes he was unaware of that went untreated for 10 years, and the partying he did in his 20s.
He stopped partying when he became a father, he says – except for beer at home. He stopped drinking alcohol entirely two and a half years ago and changed the diet heavy on “super-large pizza with the works” to salads and lean protein.
“Something just woke me up,” he says. “I was, like, why are you being so selfish?
At one point, I just knew I had to change.”
Determined to Give
Frank says he isn’t surprised that the younger of his two sons would give him a kidney. He says Nick helps senior citizens in the neighborhood bring in their groceries and does chores around their homes.
“I taught my kids to be giving and willing to help anyone,” he says. “That’s the type of guy Nick is.
“I was very protective. I didn’t let them run the streets. They’re good kids. They’re still at home, both of them. That’s how tight-knit the family is. I don’t think they’re ever leaving.”
Frank says he didn’t want Nick to put his health in jeopardy for his sake, but knew better than to try to talk him out of donating his kidney.
“There’s no talking him out of nothing,” he says. “I told him, ‘You don’t have to do this. You’re messing up your life for me.’ He said, ‘Pop, I want to do this because I’m tired of seeing you in the hospital.’”
Frank had been diagnosed with Stage IV kidney disease in 2017, and faced the reality of living on dialysis and joining the list of people waiting for a kidney. Currently, there are over 93,000people on the U.S. kidney transplant waiting list. The wait for a deceased donor is five to 10 years. Thirteen people die every day while waiting.
The COVID pandemic made matters significantly worse. The number of donor transplants, particularly kidney transplants, has plunged in the United States, dropping by 50% in the aftermath of the pandemic.
The pandemic also put living-donor transplants at Einstein on hold – until recently.
From Transplant to Recovery
Frank and Nick finally got the call from Einstein that the surgery could be scheduled. It was performed on July 17 and was the second living-donor transplant at Einstein since the procedures resumed in June.
Father and son are now home recovering and doing well.
The night before the operation, Frank and Nick got a happy surprise: a car caravan of friends and family drove by the family’s house to congratulate them and wish them luck. They cheered and held up signs that said “Green Got A Bean!” – a bean being the shape of a kidney.
“It lifted us up,” Frank says. Nick agrees. ”It felt good to see all our families and friends supporting us.”
Nick says he’s gratified he was able to help his father survive. “Listen, it seemed like he was better before I was,” Nick says, laughing. “He was up and moving the next day and I wasn’t able to get out of bed.”
So, while it took a lot longer than expected, Nick’s effort to save his father’s life has, indeed, succeeded.
Please consider organ donation. Call Einstein at 215-456-7453. Information about transplant is available at https://www.donors1.org/learn-about-organ-donation/sign-up-to-save-lives/.
A Letter from Frank’s Wife and Nick’s Mom
To the Transplant Team:
“Some people make the world special just by being in it.” And that certainly is the case when it comes to the Transplant Team at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery. I could not let this experience pass without recognizing these special people. My son, Nicholas Green, recently donated his kidney to his father, Frank Green. Despite multiple opinions from people regarding where we should go for our transplant evaluation, I knew the first time we met with this special group of people that this was the team we wanted for our journey.
That first day we met Margaret McNulty, Jeanine Abiuso, Renee Simmons, Dr. Kamran Khanmoradi, and Dr. Nikolaos Chandolias. That first visit was so overwhelming, but because of their kindness, compassion and expertise, we left that day feeling hopeful. Renee told us on that first day that this journey would make us family, and that is exactly how this experience has been.
Since my son was the donor for my husband, I got to work with both the donor coordinator and recipient coordinator. Jeanine and Renee were coordinators for my husband. They made the process for him so easy, scheduling his multiple appointments for various testing so convenient and seamless. Renee would call Frank to give him dates and times of appointments and couldn’t hang up without teasing him about the Philadelphia Eagles since she is a Dallas Cowboys fan. (Boo!)
Margaret McNulty was the coordinator for my son. There are not enough words to explain how special this woman is. She created such a special bond with him, She’d even call him “son” whenever she would se him. Nick had quite a few bumps in the road during this process, but because of Margaret’s kind, loving, compassionate soul, she was able to get him through it – a task that someone else might not have been able to do.
And one more shout out to Mary Berry!! The best phlebotomist ever!!
Fast forward to today. It’s been a month since the transplant surgery. I want to thank the surgeons, Dr. Khanmoradi and Dr. Chandolias, for their magic hands and a successful surgery. Dr. Nik , thank you much for comforting and caring for my son at the hospital when I couldn’t be there due to the pandemic. It meant so much to me and put my worried mind at ease.
So to all of you on behalf of the Green family, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the excellent care you gave to our family in some of our most trying times.
You are all angels that walk this earth!!!