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Sharp Health News

‘I’ve got it, you need it’: a living donor story

May 12, 2017

Patient Receives a Donor Kidney From a Family Friend

Kidney recipient Dawn Cox and her donor Eddie Lemasters spend quality time together two months after Dawn’s kidney transplant at Sharp Memorial Hospital.

Eddie Lemasters had just started working at Sharp Memorial Hospital when he made a decision that would change his life forever.

Lemasters learned his good friend’s mom, Dawn Cox, needed a kidney transplant.

“I told her, ‘I’ve got it, you need it; let’s do it,’” says Lemasters.

Cox learned she was in end-stage kidney failure less than a year before, after taking a tuberculosis test for a new job. During her doctor’s appointment, her primary care doctor reviewed recent blood work and saw Cox’s creatinine level was high, which could imply impaired kidney function or disease.

Cox’s doctor referred her to a nephrologist — a doctor who specializes in kidney care and disease — for further tests. The nephrologist determined Cox’s kidneys were no longer working well enough to survive without dialysis or a transplant.

“I was tired a lot and thought my lower back was hurting from a car accident I had as a teenager, but I had no other signs or symptoms,” says Cox, age 49.

“I never cried about the diagnosis. I decided I wanted to be proactive in my health care.”

For eight months, Cox received dialysis, but her kidney function continued to decline. Her doctors said she should consider her options for a kidney transplant. Cox’s sister was a match for transplantation, but additional tests determined she had unknowingly suffered a heart attack and couldn’t be a donor.

When Cox told Lemasters about her health condition, he volunteered to go through testing to see if he was a match. Lemasters has had a close relationship with Cox since he was 12 years old. Growing up, he spent many evenings at her house for dinners while hanging out with her son; he quickly became part of the family.

Tests determined Lemasters was almost a perfect match, even better than Cox’s sister. A month later Lemasters donated his kidney to Cox at Sharp Memorial Hospital.

“I would encourage people to become living donors,” says Lemasters. “I would do it over and over again if I could.”

Cox says her quality of life is “a thousand percent better,” and she is starting to enjoy life again. She is hoping to become a mentor through ReMend (Renal Empowered Mentors for Education in Nephrology & Dialysis), an organization that provides mentors to individuals and families affected by kidney disease.

“I’m so grateful to Eddie, I owe him my life,” says Cox. “I will never be able to thank him enough.”

For the news media: To talk to a Sharp doctor about living kidney donation for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at erica.carlson@sharp.com.

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