David Miller and his son Davey, from Loganton, don’t know what they’ll do yet for Father’s Day this weekend. They do know their bond is something few others understand. They share a name and lots of family stories. And now they’ve shared a kidney.
“This could be the greatest gift I could have. Right here,” said David, looking at his son.
Davey, now 23, was just six years old when he was diagnosed with Alport Syndrome, a genetic kidney disease. It was treatable for years with medication.
“His growth, his health, everything looked normal,” David said of his son’s childhood.
But then came October of 2009, when testing revealed that kidney failure was imminent.
“I was getting really tired. I was sleeping constantly, didn’t want to go outside,” said Davey.
“As a father, you’re the protector. In my opinion. You think, how do I take care of this? And you can’t,” David said.
But it turns out, he could.
Although Davey was on a national transplant list, several of his family members went through extensive testing to find out if they’d be matches. Davey admits he didn’t want them to.
“I didn’t want to see my family go through any pain. I was the one- I already had to go through it. But a family member? I didn’t want that,” he says.
Three of his family members turned out to be matches. But doctors thought his father, David, was the best fit as a donor. He says he didn’t hesitate for a moment.
“Not even a blink of an eye, I made that decision,” David said.
The transplant took place in March of 2010. Dr. Chintalapati Varma is Director of Transplant Surgery at Geisinger Health Systems.
“The half-life of a kidney procured from a person who is brain dead is about 8-10 years. If you get it from a live donor it’s about 18-20 years,” explained Dr. Varma.
That means Davey may need another transplant when he’s around 40 years old. But for now, life is good for the Millers.
“I feel really good. I’ve got a lot of energy, I’m out having a good time,” said Davey, who is looking for work and in a few months will himself become a father.
“To look and see my son beside me? Knowing he’s a young man, starting his life, getting his first job, and Father’s Day is coming up? What more of a gift do I need,” David said.