Atlanta, Ga. (October 23, 2013) – After four years on the kidney transplant waiting list, Clarence Walker was ready to give up and resort to a life on dialysis. Then, in February 2013, a kidney became available at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital just a few hours after Walker left town for Florida.
Immediately, Walker turned his car around and made it to the hospital with only 15 minutes to spare.
“Sometimes, you would just want to say forget it,” said Walker. “But my family encouraged me to keep going. They told me I couldn’t be on a machine forever. When I got the call telling me to come to the hospital right away, I said to my wife: ‘We’re going to make it in time, but I’m driving!’”
To receive the kidney, doctors told Walker he needed to be at the hospital by 9 p.m. He and his wife had left for Florida to celebrate his wife’s birthday several hours earlier. If they were lucky, they would get to the hospital just in the nick of time. Fate was on their side: Walker pulled up to the hospital at 8:45 p.m.
Walker had problems with his kidneys since 2007, when a trip to Mexico left him with stomach pain and nausea. Walker initially attributed the symptoms to food poisoning. Later, in September 2008, doctors discovered the root of his symptoms was failing kidneys. As a result, Walker endured dialysis for more than four years. During that time, he contracted three cases of pneumonia and an infection from his dialysis catheter.
“Clarence was one of approximately 97,000 people waiting for a kidney transplant in the United States,” said Eric Gibney, M.D., transplant nephrologist at Piedmont Atlanta. “Yet, his transplant was one of only 14,000 kidney transplants typically done in a year. On average, Georgians like Clarence wait four to five years on the transplant list and some die before they receive a kidney. This is why organ donation is so important.”
When Walker opened his eyes after his successful transplant surgery, he was surprised to see all four of his sisters standing at his bedside in the hospital. He says family is what helped him get through his ordeal and encourages those still waiting for their kidney to keep faith and trust in family.
Today, Walker says he feels better than ever and that he has not stopped smiling since his transplant. Walker returned to work at Piedmont Fayette Hospital just two short months after his surgery.
For more information about kidney transplant at Piedmont, visit piedmonttransplant.org.