Kidney transplant creates stronger bond for donor, recipient

Published: Sep. 29, 2022 at 3:25 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Last December, a family was suffering from emotional defeat when an almost guaranteed kidney transplant failed. Brandy Louwagie’s younger brother Bo Bearshield was a perfectly compatible donor and says he always knew as a kid that the day would come for him to give his sister something very valuable. Despite Bo’s kidney being a perfect match, Brandy’s body would not accept the organ and clotted the new organ off. This resulted in Brandy going back to square one. The time had also run out for her to avoid dialysis which was necessary until a new donor could be found. “Dialysis is something you never want to go on, but really once I got through the process, it wasn’t anything to be too scared of. I did it at home. Luckily I work from home so I didn’t have to leave my house to do any of it,” Brandy said.

It was a three-month process for Brandy, but she held onto hope that a willing donor could give her a kidney. The news she was waiting to hear finally arrived from someone she was relatively familiar with. Jason Honey, a competitive softball player that interacted with her husband a few times had become a good friend on the diamond only to become a brother later on. “Come to find out we have more in common than we thought we probably did,” Jason said.

That commonality contributed to a life-changing procedure. It inspired hope, but also fear following the failed procedure with Brandy’s brother. “When I found out there was a match I was so hopeful, also fearful because you never want what happened to Bo to happen again,” Brandy said fighting back tears. “My first thought was I hope it works just for Jason’s sake because it’s such a big thing for someone to give you a piece of their body. Jason was chosen in the end and he’ll forever be my brother and a part of my family.”

According to Avera organ transplant surgeon Dr. Sujit Vijay Sakpal, the stars aligned for the transplant, and all of the conditions were satisfied for a favorable outcome. That included almost a dozen willing and able donors coming forward. “I think a total of nine donors in a matter of a few months,” Dr. Sakpal said. “Each one of them was evaluated and with that time, [Brandy] becomes high risk because of the fact that she had a transplant which didn’t work, so she’s exposed to an organ and now her immunity has changed so there is high risk of rejecting the next organ she would get. I don’t specifically know who they are but a lot of them were friends in the community which is incredible and speaks of living donation and how it can change someone’s life immensely. It speaks of the community and speaks of Sioux Falls,” Dr. Sakpal added. “In the last year we have done 30 kidney transplants at Avera and more than 50% are living donors. A lot of them are purely altruistic which are donors coming forward without any motive whatsoever. It’s not their friends or family that they are donating to. A significant portion of them are very young that just want to go help other people. All in all, it’s a very incredible feeling to be a part of it,” Dr. Sakpal said.

Jason ended up being donor 7 out of 9, but his kidney appeared to be the perfect match. Doctors wasted no time and did Jason’s surgery on July 5 and Brandy was willing to go in early the next day. Jason said capable donors should always attempt to pursue this process because you never know the lives you could change. “Even if you don’t have somebody that’s a loved one or a relative, there’s somebody out there who needs it,” Jason said. “God gave us two kidneys, give somebody one right?”