David Bruce: Transplants Stories

Claude Massop of Bloomfield, CT, needed a new heart to stay alive. He had already had two heart surgeries, and unless he had a heart transplant he was not expected to live past his fourth birthday. Fortunately, he got one. Claude’s father, Erroll Massop, who came to the United States from Jamaica, worked hard to make that happen. Doctors said that they could not help Claude, but Erroll was stubborn. Erroll told a doctor who said that he (the doctor) could not help Claude, “What am I to do? I have nowhere else to go, and I cannot let my son die.” The doctor sent him to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. Doctors at Mount Sinai Hospital said that if Claude were strong enough, he would be put on a heart transplant waiting list. Claude was strong enough, and Erroll got a beeper that would alert him when a heart was available. Two weeks later, a heart was available, and Erroll took Claude to the hospital for a transplant, which was successful. Throughout Claude’s early life, Erroll worked hard to pay the medical bills, which were huge. At first, he worked for Kentucky Fried Chicken and made $4 an hour. Then he worked at Sealtest and made $9 an hour. His wife had to quit her job because she needed to take care of Claude and the other children. Erroll’s medical insurance and pay were not enough to pay the medical bills, and so social worker Elba Cruz Schulman organized a fundraiser to help the Massop family because, she said, “They needed my help.” People sent donations and letters. One letter read, “I don’t have much, but I don’t mind donating the little I can scrounge up for the benefit of this little boy.” Erroll’s boss at Sealtest gave him $5,000 and visited the family at the hospital. In the year 2003, over a decade after the transplant, Claude was a typical 16-year-old who enjoyed pizza, basketball, and video games, and who even failed English — something that did not make his father happy. Erroll, then working as a state correction officer, took away Claude’s video games and put them in the trunk of his car and made it clear to Claude that he needed to study. Erroll wants Claude to be a rocket scientist. When his wife mentioned that Claude is talented at cutting hair, Erroll said that he does not want his son to be a barber, unless he is a rocket scientist who also cuts hair. Erroll said, “I guess that would be OK then.”

Carol Burgess, a secretary for the Coast Guard in Norfolk, Virginia, knows how to give good gifts to her big brother, Darold. When he turned 11, her birthday gift to him was his very first skateboard — she had saved $12 so she could buy it for him. And in 2005, for her big brother’s 40thbirthday, she gave him one of her kidneys. Carol, age 37, said, “We have always been best friends. He was always my protector. I had a chance to save his life, and I was not going to walk away from that chance.” In 2002, Darold, who lives in Brooklyn, began to experience swelling. He said, “I had had high blood pressure since 1998, but I took my medicine faithfully.” He went to the hospital for tests. He said, “Within two days, I had lost 95 percent of the function of both kidneys. The doctors told me I had to start dialysis immediately.” His sister volunteered to donate a kidney right away; however, Darold was leery: “I was nervous. I didn’t want her to go through that.” For one thing, their family has a history of diabetes, hypertension, and kidney problems. Carol could develop one or more of those problems during her life. Unfortunately, three years later, Darold’s kidneys had developed so many problems that they had to be removed from his body. Carol was tested to see if her kidney was a good match for his body. Darold said, “We matched perfectly. People asked if we were twins.” The transplant took place, and all went well. Their mother, Loretta Burgess, said, “I would have been devastated if anything had happened to either of them.” However, the operation had a bonus for her. She said, “I haven’t taken a trip in two years, I was so worried about Darold. For Thanksgiving, I’m going to go see my daughter, Carol.”

Before the family Christmas party in 2004, Reynaldo Garza telephoned his relatives to announce that he could not attend the party because of swollen feet and legs. Because he never missed the party, his relatives knew that something must be very wrong. However, his brother-in-law said, “Get sandals on and come over.” He did attend the party, although he had to cut the sides of his shoes a little to order to put them on. Afterward, Mr. Garza saw a doctor, who told him that his kidneys were not working. For years, he was on dialysis, and he was put on a list for a transplant. His sister, Lydia Hernandez, worried about him. In Spanish, she said, “You do not know if he is coming back, and he was getting sicker.” She volunteered to see if she was a good candidate to donate a kidney to him for a kidney transplant. She underwent a series of tests, including a psychiatric evaluation. Lydia said, “They wanted to know if somebody was forcing me to make a donation, but no, I wanted to help my brother. That was all.” She was a good candidate, and on 19 October 2011, the kidney transplant took place at the South Texas Transplant Center at McAllen Medical Center. After the operation, Lydia said, “I’m in pain, but I will overcome it. What calms it is that I am happy, because I was able to help my brother.” She added, “This changes the way you look at life. You are giving life.”

“Every year, nearly two-thirds of the approximately 200,000 patients in need of a bone marrow transplant will not find a marrow donor that matches within their families.” — Nathan Deal

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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