14 Jun Patient Spotlight: Hosmer P.
On any given day this week, you might find Hosmer Parsons working outside, restoring old pickup trucks. You may hear about his latest visit with his kids or find him playing with one of his six grandchildren. These day-to-day happenings may seem like typical activities for a retiree, but for Mr. Parsons, each day he has to spend with his family is a gift.
This October, Mr. Parsons will be celebrating 19 years with his kidney transplant. This is nearly double the average life span of a kidney transplant, which typically lasts about 10 years. Although Mr. Parsons has faced several health issues, including back surgery, which can sometimes decrease the lifespan of a transplanted organ, his transplanted kidney has proven to be resilient.
In 1995, Mr. Parsons was required to complete a Department of Transportation physical for his trucking job, a quick and standard procedure. However, when the results revealed high protein levels in his urine, a possible sign of kidney health issues, he decided to consult a local physician and kidney specialist, Richard Muther, MD.
“Dr. Muther told me that I had kidney disease,” he said. “To this day, the source of my kidney disease is still unknown. My doctors have speculated that it could have been the aftermath of an infection I had when I was younger, but that is pure speculation. I have no family history of kidney disease and I do not have any of the leading causes.”
Although the diagnosis came as a surprise to Mr. Parsons, by following Dr. Muther’s advice and regimen he was able to delay the need for dialysis for 18 months.
“The first thing Dr. Muther did for me was put me on the kidney transplant list. The second thing he did was provide me with a strict diet, which I followed relentlessly,” he said.
During this time, Mr. Parsons continued life as usual, working full time. Although he followed his medical advice to the tee, eventually, Dr. Muther began to prepare Mr. Parsons for dialysis treatment as his kidneys gradually lost their functionality.
Then, a call came.
Just a few days before his first scheduled dialysis appointment, a kidney had become available, and it was a perfect match for Mr. Parsons.
Mr. Parsons was able to have preemptive transplant surgery, which means he received a new kidney before beginning dialysis. This is often referred to as the optimal treatment for kidney failure because a transplant not only improves survival rate in comparison with dialysis, but it also improves the quality of life for someone with kidney disease. Although Mr. Parsons never found out the identity of his donor or his donor’s family, he understood that a kidney is a precious gift he must take care of.
“The secret to maintaining your new kidney is to follow your doctor’s orders and never fail to take your medications,” he said.
Over the past two decades, Mr. Parsons has been able to avoid dialysis. One of the best parts about a kidney transplant is getting that treasured time back with family, and Mr. Parsons certainly recognized this. Over the last 19 years, he made wise investments to care for his family. Today Mr. Parsons is proudly providing support for his first grandchild to attend college. For anyone reluctant to register for a transplant, Mr. Parsons’s advice is to face any fears and just do it.
“You have less to be afraid of from a kidney transplant than of not receiving a transplant,” he said. “With kidney disease, your health is deteriorating. You have nothing to lose by signing up for the transplant list. If you have a good physician, follow him. Your doctor is instrumental in selecting your new kidney.”
Mr. Parsons expressed gratitude to his team of health care physicians, stating that much of the credit for his successful transplant goes to them.
Mr. Parsons also shared one memory that has stuck with him over the years. When he was in high school in the 1950s, his neighbors were a successful farm family. One of their sons inhaled toxic insecticide while prepping the grain bins and went in to kidney failure. At that time, only one successful kidney transplant had been completed in the United States.
“It seemed like science fiction to us,” he reflected. “It seemed impossible to complete such a surgery.”
Ultimately, his neighbors decided there was too much risk to attempt a kidney transplant, and their son passed away. Mr. Parsons said he often thinks about how much progress has been made over the years.
“There have been major advances in technology, funding, and awareness since then,” he said. “It is amazing that I stand here today because of a transplant surgery that once seemed so impossible.”