The Gift of Life

  • Published
  • By Airman Hope Geiger
  • 180th Fighter Wing
In 2016, Master Sgt. Dane Adolph, an avionics technician assigned to the 180th Fighter Wing, Ohio Air National Guard, donated his kidney to someone in need so that his wife could be moved to number one on the transplant list.

Adolph was not a match for his wife, but was willing to donate his kidney to someone else so she could be moved up on the list.

Before this experience happened, Adolph was already a registered donor.

“She was born with a disease called Polycystic Kidney Disease,” said Adolph.

PKD causes numerous fluid-filled cysts to grow in the kidneys. When the cysts grow or if they get too big, the kidneys can become damaged. Overtime, the cysts slowly replace much of the kidneys, reducing kidney function and leading to kidney failure.

She was put on the transport list when she had a severe loss in kidney function.

“My wife was kind of unique, she was born with this disease and wasn’t expected to live past two,” Adolph said. “With her having three kids and a miscarriage, she had a lot of antibodies built up that made matching her more difficult.”

They went through the National Kidney Registration that matches people who are willing to donate kidneys to people in need. Adolph registered that he was willing to donate his kidney for his wife to receive one.

“I was helping my wife, the mother of my children and love of my life, stay around longer,” said Adolph. “She means a lot to me and we’ve been together for 22 years, so knowing she is going to be around a lot longer was the best thing for me.”

Before the donation, Adolph didn’t know if he would be deployable or medically cleared to do his military job if he donated his kidney.

“I still would have done it,” said Adolph. “Even if I had to take leave without pay I still would have donated for her.”

Adolph did some research and he found out that after his donation he would still be deployable, medically cleared to do his job and receive paid time off to recover, which made his decision a little bit easier.

“It took us a year and a half to find a donor,” Adolph said. “A woman walked in off the street in Syracuse, New York and said she wanted to donate a kidney to someone who needed one. She was a match for my wife.”

In April of 2016, Adolph went into surgery early in the morning and his kidney was sent to someone in California. Later that same day his wife received her new kidney when it arrived from New York.

“It was pretty intense, but I would do it again if I could,” said Adolph. “I was expecting all this pain, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.”

Adolph had to relearn how to get out of bed due to the incision abdomen that his kidney was removed from, by using his elbows to get him up. He couldn’t lift anything heavier than five pounds for a week, or do any vigorous activity and drive for six weeks.

Adolph was only in the hospital for three days after his surgery, but his wife experienced some drawbacks.

“There were complications with my wife’s transplant,” said Adolph. “They folded the kidney over when they put it in, damaging 30 percent of it right off the bat, so they had to go back in, unfold it and try to save the rest of the new kidney.”

The guard gave Adolph 35 working days off to recover and help his wife recover.

“When she was recovering, she had a lower gastrointestinal bleed and her incision got infected so she had to get all the infected tissue removed,” said Adolph. “We are only authorized so many visits for home healthcare, so I got a crash course in wound care to be able to pack the wound, clean it and care for it while she was recovering.”

“My wife went back to work a year after her surgery,” Adolph said. “I was off for about three months before I came back to work.”

Adolph started running again in September and when he tried to do core exercises, like sit-ups, he felt as if his incision were going to rip open.

“I couldn’t do any core exercises for a year, I went back to the Cleveland hospital and they told me to take time off and not to over exert myself,” said Adolph. This past physical fitness test was my first time doing sit-ups since surgery.”

It has been a long road of recovery for the both of them and they are still dealing with obstacles.

“Her kidney is showing some signs of rejection right now, so we are keeping an eye on everything,” Adolph said. “The doctors are trying to do some medication changes, and we go back every three months for follow-ups to make sure everything is working the way it’s supposed to.”

“I would encourage others to become an organ donor because it’s the right thing to do,” Adolph said. “It’s not as painful as you think it would be, and it’s no cost to you because the donor insurance pays for the procedure.”

While 33,611 transplants were performed in 2016, not nearly enough were done to keep up with the growing number of people on the waiting list. By being an organ donor you can give up to eight people a second chance at life, and improve the lives of many others.

“Organ donation is an affirmation of life and is a reflection of the very best we can hope to be,” said Col. Scott Reed, 180FW vice commander. “This selfless act of kindness touches countless lives and allows you to change the world. I hope we all consider giving the gift of life."

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