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My Kidney And Pancreas Transplant
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On August 29 2008, I had what was certainly a life changing event for me.  I am making this public because I am deeply appreciative of everyone who helped and made this possible.  And I hope I can encourage others to give the gift of life.  Transplant donations need not be made after death.  There are many donations, such as kidney, which can be made while the donor is alive.  Please consider this, and please read on.

Over the Labor Day Holiday, on August 29, 2008, I had a very special weekend: I had a kidney and pancreas transplant.  I am fully recovered, and back to work, and feeling great after a very successful surgery.  My kidney is working perfectly and so is my pancreas.  After about 35 years of being an insulin dependent diabetic I no longer have to take insulin shots, and I am off dialysis. 

My kidneys failed in April of 2008.  I am lucky and fortunate, but I grieve for the family that lost a teenager in a car accident that made the donated organs possible.  I am a father, and cannot comprehend the grief they went through and the love and generosity the family had to donate their child's organs.  They all deserve a special place in Heaven and with God.  I hope to meet the family and thank them.   My transplant team at St. Vincent Hospital in Los Angeles was superb, headed by Robert Naraghi, M.D. with his associate Tang Shah, M.D.  God bless them.

And thank you for your support and prayers.  Especially my wife Shelley who got me through this.  Below are some of the updates I posted after my transplant surgery:

UPDATE ON OCTOBER 26, 2008

It's now been eight weeks since my transplants and I am feeling exceptionally well and almost fully back to normal.  This past Friday I drove my car for the first time since the surgery.  Actually, I could have driven earlier, but my wife and son insisted that they drive... and I enjoyed being the passenger.

I am now fully adjusted to taking my medication -- but frankly it is easy taking pills even though there are pills to be taken four times a day.  It's a lot easier taking pills than having to take insulin shots.  In fact, I have to remind myself each morning not to take an insulin shot.  After more than 30 years of taking insulin shots it is now a habit that is hard to break.

I really feel different now not having to take insulin, and not having to have meals at certain times of the day to prevent low blood sugar.  It is amazing this new life I have.  I also feel stronger.  I have more lung capacity now, my voice has improved now that I am off dialysis.  I am working better.  I hope that those of you who watch my TV program can see the differences also.

I am grateful, and I will never forget.

UPDATE ON FEBRUARY 7, 2009

It's now more than five months since my kidney and pancreas transplant surgery and all is going well.  In fact, all has been going exceptionally well.  I've been sticking to my regimen of taking various pills and anit-rejection drugs -- and what a difference it is taking pills instead of taking two or three insulin injections a day.

It's also amazing how my overall health has improved now that I am no longer diabetic.  Heck, I eat ice cream almost every day -- and I am watching my weight.  I have dessert at dinner-- cheesecake is one of my favorites.  But more importantly, this past week I had a follow up appointment with my cardiologist.

There is a history of heart disease in my family, and when you are diabetic, heart problems are common.  But in my visit this week -- my heart health was perfect.  My blood pressure was normal -- 120 over 70 -- for the first time in many, many years.  My EKG looked great and so did the echo cardiogram that lets the doctor see the heart valves move and the blood flow through my heart.  I watched the echo cardiogram as the technician scanned my heart -- it's like an ultrasound but you are looking at your heart and not for a baby.

I had been going to my cardiologist once every four months for a check-up.  But this past week he told me all looks great, and he doesn't have to see me again for a year.  Wow.

Meanwhile, I keep to a daily exercise schedule.  Nothing extreme -- I walk about one and a quarter miles each day.  And I haven't felt this good in many, many years.  And every day I say thank you to the family that made my transplants possible.

APRIL 7, 2009 UPDATE

April 7th is my birthday, and what a year the last year has been.  Shortly after my last birthday -- April 9th -- my kidneys failed from my many years of being an insulin dependent diabetic and I went on kidney dialysis.  Then the combination kidney and pancreas transplant last August.  And now, about a year after my kidneys failed and I started dialysis, I am now in probably the best health I've had since being in college -- before I developed diabetes.

In fact, I used to have to go to my cardiologist every several months.  But now with my new pancreas, my new kidney and healthy blood pressure levels, I've been given the all clear to stop the cardiology visits every few months and return for a check up only after a year.

I want you to know that every morning I thank my lucky stars, God and the family that made the donated organs available.  It has been quite a "round trip" from one birthday to the next.

UPDATE MAY 30, 2009

All has been going well, and thank you for your continued best wishes and support.  My health is excellent -- I have plenty of energy, I feel great, my blood sugar levels are pefect with my new pancreas, and I am back to eating the pre-dialysis diet that so many people without kidney disease take for granted.  I have a new appreciation for life and I will always appreciate the family that gave me my new life.  I will never forget and pray for them every day.

Now, on the lighter side:  A couple of weeks ago when I went for my last haircut, Donelle who cuts my hair said to me, "your hair is thicker, it's straighter, and it's darker -- less gray hair."

Well, it's true.  My hair is thicker, it is straighter and it is darker.  Am I getting younger?  No, it's not one of the side benefits of a kidney and pancreas transplant... but it is the result of some of the anti-rejection drugs that I take every day.  At least, that's what the medical experts are telling me.

Some of the medications can make hair grow more quickly and thicker, or these same medications can make your hair fall out.  In my case, my hair is thicker and growing more quickly -- and the dark hair growth is overtaking the gray hair growth.  At least, that's what appears to be happening.

Yes, I still have gray hair and in places that are still prominent on TV, such as the top, front of my head.  But in places that are not usually seen on camera, such as the back and top of my head, the hair is darker.  Of course, while that is a happy result, it is not the most important result from the kidney and pancreas transplant.  It's now been 9 months.

UPDATE ON NOVEMBER 23, 2009

Thanksgiving is coming up in a few days and I have a lot to be thankful for.  I was having an online chat about my transplants and being thankful and I want to share with you what I wrote:

Yes, I am very thankful, but I also have a lot of responsibility now.

I will forever be grateful to the family for donating the organs of their loved one so that I and several others had a second chance at life.  Another person received the other kidney, and the liver was divided to help two others.  Other organs were also used.

Now the responsibility part.  Every day I say a prayer, and every night I say a prayer for that person and family, and I realize that I have to be good for that person and try to make up for whatever good that person might have brought into the world but can't now.

And it's not just morning and night... when something "good" happens, or when I get a chance to laugh or smile, or accomplish something, I have to remember where that "good" came from, where that laugh or smile came from, where that accomplishment came from.

I wish you all a good and a happy Thanksgiving.  Be grateful, and with your good fortune be responsible.

APRIL 9, 2010 UPDATE

Two years ago today I almost died from kidney failure.  It was two years ago today that I was so sick that I could barely stand and I was taken to St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica and had tubes implanted in my chest and started kidney dialysis.  What happened after that is detailed above on this page.  But I just want you to know that every day I pray for the young person who died and for the family that donated the organs to help me and others.  And I will never forget, and I will always be living with the responsibility to do good for that donor and for that family.  Thank you.

MARCH 31, 2011 UPDATE

It's been almost a year since my last update, but I am pleased to report that I've been healthy, working hard, and taking good care of myself following doctor's orders (except the one about losing 20 pounds), taking my medicines including anti-rejection drugs, going for my regular checkups and blood tests,  Unfotunately, someone posted on a TV New Message Forum that I was seriously ill -- and that was not true.  I've only missed one day of work in the last year and that was about six weeks ago when I got a horrible case of food poisoning.  Ironically, I got it at home -- because I hadn't eaten away from home in the previous 24-hours.  I have no idea what caused it but I did end up in the emergency room needing IV fluids because I was so dehydrated.

But I did have a scare after that overnight stay in the hospital.  It wasn't a "medical scare" but it was an "insurance scare."  After my overnight stay in the hospital the hospital billing department called me to say that my insurance carrier had refused payment.  And the reason -- that my Medicare coverage should pay the bill.  Medicare?  I don't have Medicare-- I have private insurance through my work.

In fact, I never had Medicare -- not while I was on dialysis and not after my transplant.  But my insurance company says I should have signed up for Medicare and now Medicare should be paying all of my bills because it's been over 30 months since my kidney failure.

Whoa.  Hold on there.  What are they talking about?

Well, what they at the insurance company are talking about is just a misinterpretation of what Medicare does and does not pay for if you are on dialysis or after a transplant.  And it took awhile for me to explain it to them, and for them to understand.  And I truly hope no one else ever has to go through what I just went through with my insurance company and the threat of not having insurance coverage-- even after paying for it in good faith.

UPDATE ON AUGUST 29, 2011

Three years ago today the phone rang and I was told not to eat breakfast and get to the transplant center.  They found a kidney-- and a pancreas from a deceased donor.  This day is not a day for celebration because it also marks the date that a young person died and the family of that young person put aside their own grief for a time to decide to help others with donated organs.  So, today is a day for me to express my thanks and to let them know that I will never forget.  I also pray for that family, for that young person who died tragically, and for the other organ recipients that day.

I would also like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that they can be living kidney donors.  You can live a perfectly healthy and normal life with one kidney (I am proof of that now, as are many other living kidney donors) and perhaps it was God's plan that he gave most people two good kidneys so they can share one with someone in need.

UPDATE ON OCTOBER 8, 2011

I am writing this after Yom Kippur services.  Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish faith, and I attended day-long services at a Synagogue in San Diego with my wife and her family.  In the afternoon, there was a special Healing Service where special prayers were offered for those who were ill, and it was also a time when those who were ill could testify about their faith.  My wife's family had many reasons to be there as there has been some serious illness in her family.  And, then of course there was my kidney and pancreas transplant three years ago.

During the service my sister-in-law talked about their faith and she mentioned that her father (my father-in-law) recently suffered a stroke but is now on the mend, and she thanked the congregation for their support during other illnesses, and with some hesitation she mentioned my transplants.  I think she thought I wouldn't want it mentioned.  But as she seemingly choked on the words I looked up at her and said "okay, I'll talk about it."  And I took the microphone and spoke to the congregation.

I told them that every day I wake up in the morning and thank God and say a prayer for the donor and the donor's family -- people I have never met, nor do I know who they are.  And then, for the first time, I cried in public.  My voice cracked and tears fell as I said what a burden it is to know that I can go on with my life because of the grief that another family suffered, and because someone else died.

And it is a thought that I have every day of the year, and not just on Yom Kippur.

UPDATE ON APRIL 7, 2012

I'm writing this exactly sixty years after the moment I was born.  Yep, it's my birthday.  And I'm doing well.  But four years ago I was in pretty rough shape.  Three days before my birthday of four years ago I was terribly ill from kidney failure -- and I passed out hitting my head and I needed stitches to close the wound.  And a couple of days after my birthday of four years ago I started kidney dialysis.  I was still a diabetic taking insulin injections -- two or three a day to keep my blood sugar under control.  This birthday is a lot different and I am in a much better place and in better health.  But I will always remember what got me here to enjoy today.  Thank you.

UPDATE ON AUGUST 29, 2012

Four years ago today the phone rang and a nurse from the St. Vincent Medical Center Transplant Unit asked "did you eat breakfast yet?"  Then she said "don't."  Late that night, four years ago, I was undergoing the kidney and pancreas transplant.  And every day since then I thanked God and prayed for the family and for the loved one they lost for making the transplant possible.  It is a heavy burden to wake up each morning realizing that someone died and their organs are living inside you.  Transplant patients who received an organ from a living donor are spared that burden and they can share the joy and good health the transplant brings with their living donor.

UPDATE ON OCTOBER, 2, 2012

This isn't about my kidney and pancreas transplant.  This is about living as a diabetic.  For about 32 years I was an insulin-dependent diabetic and that meant trying to control blood sugar, eating carefully, and dealing with problems when my blood sugar was too high and when it was too low.  When blood sugar is low things go wrong: you can lose consciousness, you can fall and get hurt, and when driving a car you can run your car off the road or run it into someone else's car.  I never had a car accident but one time I did lose consciousness while driving and somehow, through the grace of God, after leaving Encino and getting on the 405 Freeway, I found myself in Gorman safe, alive, with no body damage on my car, and wondering how the heck I got there?

I've also had episodes of low blood sugar while on TV and I stumbled over words and forgot my lines and slurred.  Once when it happend while working at WTVJ in Miami I blamed it on my contact lenses.  Once when it happened in the newsroom at CBS in New York I didn't make any excuses and paramedics wheeled me out and drove me to Roosevelt Hospital.  My blood sugar was dropping fast when I was live reporting on Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan's visit to South Los Angeles but somehow I managed to finish the live report on the noon news.

And then there was another episode of low blood sugar which I never talked about till now.  And I'm doing it now because I want to find the employee at KCAL who helped me in the parking lot when I was in a "daze" and I didn't know where I was going because my blood sugar was so low.

For more than ten years this has been on my mind:   Well, one day my blood sugar was very low, and I had just finished my Money Report on the Noon News.  As I normally did, I had a news story to cover after the noon report and walking from the studio on the Paramount lot to where the news vans were parked over at the old KCAL building on Melrose my blood sugar dropped dramatically.

When I reached the parking lot over at the Melrose building I was in a daze.  I couldn't see where I was going and I must have looked drunk. In fact, diabetics when they have insulin reactions (as I was having) do appear drunk -- but they're not.  If you ever come across someone who appears to be drunk, ask them if they are diabetic -- because you could be saving a life when you do.

Well, I must have been standing there in the parking lot when one of the ladies working at KCAL came up to me and said "are you okay?"  I remember that, and I remember saying, "I must be drunk."   I probably said "I must be drunk" because for years I always had discussions about diabetics with low blood sugar appearing to be drunk.  And she said, "you just got off the air, that was fast."  Yeah, great, she must have thought I put down a whole bottle of scotch in the five minutes since I left the news set.  And then she said "where are you going?"  And I must have muttered that I was looking for "Unit 13" because I was usually working in Unit 13. 

She must have pointed the way for me to find the news van, and somehow I got in the van.  At this point, I must have looked like a mess with perspiration, a dazed look, and slurred speech.  These are the classic symptoms of low blood sugar.

But after having blood sugar levels that are low, the body releases sugar that is stored in the liver, and that must have happened to me because then I started to come "out of it."  I recall asking the cameraman (I forgot who it was and I probably didn't even recognize him at the time) to swing by a donut shop so I could get some donuts (a source of quick sugar).

But what is on my mind all these years is -- who was the lady, the KCAL employee, in the parking lot?  I want her to know I was not really drunk.

UPDATE ON AUGUST 29, 2013

For this update, I would like to post the comments I made on my Facebook page, and some of the comments made by others.  The only point I want to make here is that I wish more people would consider making a living donation of a kidney.  I'd like to think that God gave everyone two kidneys so they could donate one while living, and while living they can enjoy the gift they gave, and at the same time ease what really is guilt that a transplant recipient can feel after receiving an organ from a deceased donor.  As you read the posts from Facebook, I think you will understand.

My post: 

August 29. Five years ago today I got a phone call. "Did you have breakfast yet? Don't." It was a transplant coordinator calling from St Vincent Medical Center in LA. Shortly before midnight five years ago today I had a kidney and a pancreas transplant. But it came with a heavy burden. Five years ago today someone died tragically and that is something that stays with me every day.
 

And what some others posted:

It may not serve as much of a consolation, but know that God wanted it that way. The person who died is your angel sent from the heavens. As long as you are living your life and doing good, you should not feel bad or guilty.
 
You have helped to keep this person alive in you!!!
 
We live in a magical age. Where one persons death can mean life for another.
 
You and your donor are giving so much hope to people who are facing transplants. Five years and counting. That's wonderful.
 
Alan, you cant look at it that way. If it were you or a family member, a loved one or even me, wouldnt you want our peril to greatly benefit the life of another human? You and I were born with a factory installed non optional guilt gland so we are a bit more miserable in that area than the other tribes out there.
 
awwwwwwwww im glad u kept the same heart u always had!!
 
I believe there are no coincidences, you were meant to get that phone call. Consider that person as your guardian angel. I'm so glad that you are doing well.
 
I am also very happy to hear you are well and thriving. That person lives on in you.
 
A window closes and a door opens. It was b'shert you were standing at the door. All the best.

I have one wish and that is that more people were living donors.  God gave people two kidneys and I'd like to think that means one to share.  What donor wouldn't rather be around to see the life they gave?  And every recipient would like to be able to hug and thank the donor who shared life with them.  It's been five years.  I will never forget.

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