For the media

A birthday gift like no other

By The Health News Team | February 14, 2023
Man with face mask in hospital bed with woman with glasses and face mask by his side

Twenty years ago, Doug Cimins’ father was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease (PKD). This genetic disorder causes fluid-filled cysts to grow in or on the kidneys and can lead to kidney failure. Doug and his family were devastated to learn that his father needed a kidney transplant.

Now in his early 30s, Doug, along with his brothers, received the unfortunate news that they also had the genetic disorder. 

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, PKD cysts can change the shape of your kidneys, unlike the usually harmless kidney cysts that can form later in life. PKD cysts are also much larger and reduce kidney function, increasing the chance of kidney failure.

In 2020, Doug's health started to degrade when both of his kidneys failed. He began dialysis in January 2021, and at that point, his kidneys were so large that bending over to tie his shoes was impossible.

With the support of his wife, Trace, a kindergarten teacher, Doug decided to undergo at-home dialysis. “Doing dialysis at home was the best decision for me, and I felt fortunate to have this option,” says Doug. “It gave me the flexibility I needed to continue working, and I felt at ease being with my wife.”

A casual comment results in a lifesaving gift

After school one day, Trace quickly mentioned to Amanda Kotanen, the mother of one of Trace's students, that she needed to rush home and help her husband with his dialysis. Amanda went home and started researching how to become a living kidney donor. She understood that Doug could be on the national transplant waitlist for eight to 10 years while waiting for a deceased donor if someone didn't donate their kidney to him. 

“I remember thinking about the stories my mom would share after her shifts in the emergency room,” says Amanda. “I always looked up to my mom for her work in helping others and knew that this was my chance to impact someone’s life. I wasn’t sure if I would be a match, but I knew I wanted to start the process.”

The next day, Amanda approached Trace and shared her interest in becoming Doug’s donor. After a few tests, Amanda and Doug received the news that they were a match. Not only did they have the same blood type, but Amanda matched three of Doug’s genetic markers. 

A very happy birthday, indeed

On Doug’s 56th birthday, he received the best gift he could ask for, the chance to live a better life. He had both of his kidneys removed, which weighed 20 pounds each, and received one of Amanda’s healthy kidneys. Drs. Jeffrey Halldorson and Marquis Hart, board-certified transplant surgeons affiliated with Sharp Memorial Hospital, performed the surgeries.

“My life has transformed since my surgery,” says Doug. “I was nearly immobile because of my kidney disease and limited on what I could do because of the dialysis. I’ve been given a whole new life.”

In October 2022, Amanda, her husband, and her kids joined Doug and his family to participate in the annual San Diego Walk for PKD, organized by the PKD Foundation. Their goal is to raise awareness of the disease that affects more than 600,000 people in the United States.

“I consider them a part of my family, and I am so happy to see Doug’s transformation,” says Amanda. “He looks like a new person and is full of energy. If you are considering becoming a living donor, do it! I promise you that the feeling of saving someone’s life is like no other.”

Learn more about living kidney donation at Sharp HealthCare.

You might also like:

Get the best of Sharp Health News in your inbox

Our weekly email brings you the latest health tips, recipes and stories.