Patient Transplant Stories

Kidney Transplant Program celebrates 40th year, 2,000th procedure

(April 2003 HCMC Scanner publication)

Behind every number there's a story, from the first kidney transplant done at HCMC in April 1963 to the 2000th procedure that will take place this year.

Approaching transplant No. 51's green and gold home in rural Wisconsin could make a Viking's fan very uncomfortable. The 200-acre farm, tucked away within the rolling countryside, contains enough Packers and Badger memorabilia to impress even some purple and gold fans on this side of the St. Croix. But within seconds of meeting John Peper, his friendly, positive attitude and warm smile make you feel right at home.

After being on dialysis for 20 months for up to 18 hours a day per session, Peper will never forget the day he received his gift of life and freedom from being tied down to a dialysis machine.

"Sept. 17, 1970, at 9:30 a.m.," he says without hesitation. "They had tested five people in my family, and my brother in '69. They would have done it sooner, but the doctors were still wondering if it was safe to take a relative's kidney."

"Only cadaver donors were used in the early days of transplants," explains Barb Danielsen, RN, manager of HCMC's Transplant Clinic. "However, today the majority of transplant surgeries are made possible by living donors." Here at HCMC, approximately two-thirds of all transplants come from living donors, that is, someone with an emotional relationship to the recipient-a family member, spouse or close friend.

Janet Larson's Freedom from Dialysis

Janet Larson's polycystic kidneys had been removed months prior to transplant No. 1900. Like many waiting for a kidney transplant, she too had to rely on dialysis to remove toxins from her blood. On Nov. 26, 2002, she found herself thankful beyond words. That's the day she received a kidney from her cousin, Carol Pedley.

"I can never thank Carol enough for what she's done for me," said Larson on Thanksgiving Day during an interview with KARE 11's Ellen Kolodziej.

Pedley hated seeing how Larson's kidney disease affected her quality of life and she wanted to make a difference. Pedley has no regrets about donating and even said she would do it again "in a minute" to help her cousin. Pedley's kidney began functioning right away once it was transplanted and Larson no longer required dialysis.

"It's a miracle. Even the doctors are impressed by how quickly Carol's kidney worked. I'm so grateful," said a tearful Larson.

Back in Wisconsin, the cache of Green Bay Packers memorabilia at the Peper home is amazing. Even more amazing is the collection of family pictures that chronicles 32 years of living since the transplant: Peper's marriage to his beautiful wife, Lois; their son, Joey, adopted from Korea shortly after the transplant; a daughter, Kelley, born hortly thereafter; family vacations, graduations, and celebrations; and the continuation of the Peper legacy through grandchildren - all made possible by one brother's generous gift.

There's significance in numbers. But from the first transplant to the 2000 th procedure, patients being able to live life to its fullest is what matters most. Thanks to a 40-year history of providing outstanding transplant services, and the selfless efforts of kidney donors, HCMC's kidney transplant program will continue to keep hope alive for families facing kidney disease.

Pone Khamlatthanom's Story

Since last year, Pone Khamlatthanom has been watching his father, Boutheung, battle illness resulting from failing kidneys. The 23-year-old petty officer third class was stationed on a ship in Virginia, but was reassigned to duty closer to home so he could be "at the ready" to give his father his kidney. Deciding to donate a kidney to his father was easy, explains Khamlatthanom. "He's my dad and I love him. I've seen what he's gone through over the past months and I want him to feel better."

The Khamlatthanom's had procedure No. 1918 performed on March 11, 2003 and both are doing well.