Father and son share special bond

Wanda English Burnett, Editor

Father and son, Don, 54, and Jason Edwards, 31, have shared a lot over the years. They’ve shared food, jokes, clothes, but more recently, the gift Jason gave his dad is a unique one - a kidney.

When Don’s health worsened due to years of hypertension or high blood pressure, doctors told the Versailles man he would have to go on dialysis or have a kidney transplant. They told him dialysis would only prolong his life about six months. He needed a kidney transplant.

“I didn’t hesitate,” Jason told The Versailles Republican, when he learned the plight of his father. He immediately volunteered one of his kidneys, knowing what was involved.

Jason said he did consider his own family and their feelings on the subject. He got all the support he needed from wife, Rachel, who said it was okay with her. The couple’s children, D.J. 10, Garrett, 9, and Gracie, 7, said they are glad their papa is feeling better. While they may not understand the ramifications of the life-giving sacrifice their father made, they do understand their grandfather is getting better every day.

After Jason was tested and declared a 99% match, the wheels were in motion for the surgery. Don’s wife, Ann, noted that her daughter from a previous marriage was also a match. But, Jason insisted he be the donor and the family agreed.

While the Edwards family thought the date was at the end of February, the hospital called with an open slot - two weeks earlier, on February 12.

“Then it hit me,” Jason said. He realized this was a reality and for a guy who rarely visits a doctor, he was apprehensive. “I was nervous,” he admitted, saying he thought about his whole family. But, Jason still didn’t hesitate and the day for surgery arrived.

The surgery was performed at the University of Cincinnati Hospital in Cincinnati. Jason was in surgery about five hours, his dad about six. Don explained he now has three kidneys - his own near defunct ones, and his son’s healthy one, which actually pulls most of the weight.

The only visible signs of Jason’s donation are three small incisions and another about four inches wide on his abdomen. Don has much larger incisions and the proof the kidney has given him new life is seen on his face. “I feel better than I have in years,” Don told The Versailles Republican. He’s gaining strength every day.

“He used to sleep a lot during the day,” Don’s wife, Ann, noted. He doesn’t have gout or high blood pressure anyone either, according to Ann.

The father and son laughed about the new, young kidney. Now Don wakes about 4 a.m. - when his son typically wakes to get ready for work. Don has more energy. Both men say their tastes have changed. Neither wants salty foods or soft drinks such as Coke or Mountain Dew, their prior favorites.

Don had a set back almost a week after surgery that was not related to his kidneys. “I had a blockage,” Don noted. He had a blockage in his heart and was rushed back to the Veterans Hospital in Cincinnati where they used the balloon technique to correct the problem.

Both father and son are recuperating nicely - Jason says he’s completely healed. Don opted for a study to see if carbon monoxide will aid in the healing of kidney transplant patients. He feels this has expedited his recovery. The study title is: A Single-Bline, Placebo-controlled, Safety, and Tolerability Study of the Effects of Carbon Monoxide of Inhalation on Patients Receiving Kidney Transplants.

There’s no doubt donors give life to those on the receiving end of their generosity. Ann also noted that the donors do not pay for any expenses related to the procedure. “That is all covered by the recipient’s insurance,” she noted.

Five weeks after the surgery - both father and son say they wouldn’t do anything different. They are pleased with the outcome, and say they are “closer than ever."

It was smiles all around at the Edwards home as they celebrated the recovery of Don and Jason, following a kidney transplant surgery in February. Pictured from left are Ann, holding husband Don's hand, Jason, and wife Rachel. Seated are Don's grandchildren: Gracie, Garrett and D.J. Edwards.