Kidney Transplant: A Perfect Shot

May 22, 2020

Sean Greene, 49, knew the donated kidney he’d received from his sister Jiton in 2003 wouldn’t last forever. But he never expected to receive the gift of a living organ donation twice in his life—let alone that it would be his 20-year-old son, Jordan, who would give him this second gift.

“My son stepped up to the plate without hesitation, and I’m so very grateful,” Sean says.

Sean has a rare kidney disease called focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS). This disease attacks the kidneys’ filtering units, causing serious scarring that can lead to permanent damage.

When Sean’s kidney started to fail again, Jordan didn’t hesitate to offer one of his own to his father. “My dad and I are really close. He’s my buddy. So when his kidney started to fail, I told him, ‘I got this. I will give you my kidney, no debate,’” Jordan says.

An Act of Love

At first Sean was reluctant to accept Jordan’s generous offer. “You never want to jeopardize your kids. You worry about their health first,” he says. “So I was very uncomfortable with the idea.”

Michael Goldstein, M.D., director of organ transplantation at Hackensack University Medical Center, says it’s common for parents to feel this way. “As parents we want to protect our kids, so it’s not intuitive that you would accept one of their organs,” he says.

But discussions with Dr. Goldstein during his transplant evaluation helped Sean and his wife, Lisa, to understand another perspective. “It turns out that people who donate to their parents, or to anyone, end up living very fulfilled and thankful lives,” Dr. Goldstein says. “Not only do they get to save the life of their parent, which is very rewarding, but it gives them a sense of strength and pride that they carry their entire life.”

Living donor transplantation is also best for the patient, Dr. Goldstein says. Without a living donor, Sean would have to wait on the organ transplant list for a donor—which could take years—while his health deteriorated. He likely would have had to go on dialysis, which comes with its own risks. And a kidney from a living donor lasts longer and is associated with better outcomes than one from a deceased donor.

“The act of a living donation is one of the greatest acts of kindness to our family, friends and community. So few take the opportunity to donate, but many more have the potential to provide this great gift of life. We hope to increase awareness through wonderful stories like Jordan and his father, Sean,” Dr. Goldstein says.

Transplant Poster Boys

Because Jordan was in his junior year in college, the family opted to schedule the transplant after his academic year ended in June 2019. Father and son underwent surgery in side-by-side operating rooms. Both say surgery and post-operative recovery were routine and the pain was bearable. “Aside from them both being in a little discomfort, they could be poster boys for organ transplants because they recovered quite quickly,” Lisa says.

The two returned home a few days after surgery. About a month later, Jordan was back to work at a youth camp for African American high school students at Princeton University, where he’d worked in previous summers. He’s now finishing his last year of college and will graduate in the spring.

Sean is back to feeling like his old self. Before the transplant, he’d suffered from fatigue, shortness of breath and mood swings, and spent a lot of the day sleeping. He was unable to work and closed his printing and graphic design business. But now he has a lot of energy, is exercising every day and is planning to re-open his business. This new lease on life has extended to other aspects of his health with a new effort to eat healthier.

“It’s like you get your full life back, and I don’t want to make it seem dramatic, but it’s such a big difference from before and after the transplant,” Sean says.

Superman to the Rescue

Both Sean and Jordan return to Hackensack regularly for follow-up appointments with the transplant team. “Every time they’re here, they are like celebrities because we all know them, we all love them and we all are involved in their care. And we love to see their smiles, see how they’re doing and hear about their lives,” Dr. Goldstein says.

This affection is much reciprocated. “We first met Dr. Goldstein on Halloween day of 2018. I remember because he had on a Superman costume. And in my eyes, he is like Superman because he did a fantastic job with the transplant,” Lisa says.

Of course, Sean and Lisa are grateful to their other Superman, too. Because of Jordan’s lifesaving gift of organ donation, Sean is healthy and happy, and the whole family is looking forward to the future. “Sean and I are really proud that Jordan has such a good heart,” Lisa says. “After all the fear and anxiety, it was a beautiful act and has solidified their relationship. They’re even closer now because they share this.”

Learn how our transplant team members partner with patients and families every step of the way, from pre-transplant evaluation to surgery to post-operative care.

Dr. Goldstein practices in Hackensack. To make an appointment, call 551-996-2608.

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.