For the media

New kidney, better life

By The Health News Team | September 7, 2021
Wynn Bressler with his partner, Michael Diddock

Wynn Bressler (right) with his partner, Michael Diddock.

A little blue card started Wynn Bressler’s kidney transplant journey at Sharp Memorial Hospital. The 57-year-old HR professional had been suffering from kidney disease for four years and was close to needing dialysis.

Wynn knew his best chance at a better life would be a preemptive kidney transplant — a transplant that occurs before an individual starts dialysis. His niece was willing to donate her kidney but had recently given birth to twins and was restricted from travel due to the pandemic.

Discouraged but not defeated, Wynn met with Catherine Chappell, a licensed clinical social worker with the Sharp HealthCare Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Program. To broaden his chances of finding a donor, she provided him with a stack of blue cards to give to prospective donors. The cards included information about Wynn’s search as well as Sharp’s kidney transplant program.

“My goal is to help our patients find a donor sooner than later, so they don’t have to be on dialysis or wait for years for a transplant from a deceased donor,” says Catherine. “We’ve found that our patients feel more comfortable giving out these blue cards when asking others for something as important as an organ.”

Wynn’s partner, Michael Diddock, shared the card with his co-worker, Cathy Sandoval, while talking with her about Wynn’s situation — and changed all three of their lives when Cathy volunteered to donate one of her kidneys.

“Considering organ donation was naturally an easy decision for me to make, since my father is a liver transplant recipient from 15 years prior,” says Cathy. “When Michael shared with me the challenges his partner was having, it took only a moment to decide I wanted to help.”

When testing confirmed she was a match, Cathy and Wynn proceeded with the next steps.

However, Wynn faced additional hurdles with his insurance. That’s when Silvia Barick, revenue cycle manager for the Transplant Program, stepped in.

“Medical insurance for transplant can often be complicated. And in Wynn’s case, we had to find a way for him to get the coverage he needed. Wynn is a patient that touched my heart — I knew we needed to do everything we could to help him navigate the insurance process so we could get his surgery scheduled,” she says.

Wynn considers June 7, 2021 — the date of his transplant surgery — to be the day of his rebirth. As the recipient of a preemptive kidney transplant, Wynn faced a lower risk that his body could reject Cathy’s donor kidney. Additionally, he was able to follow a less restrictive diet and avoid some of the health problems associated with dialysis, such as fatigue, infection and weight gain.

“To see him with tears of joy after receiving a kidney transplant was personally very moving for me,” says Dr. Arman Faravardeh, Wynn’s nephrologist, who is affiliated with Sharp Community Medical Group and Sharp Memorial Hospital. “Captured in that moment was the essence of why I am in the transplant field — to make such a significant difference in the lives of our patients.”

Michael was touched to see Sharp’s care team provide compassionate care for his partner and co-worker.

“The care that was taken to make sure we knew what to expect, both during and after the surgery, is something I have never before experienced in health care,” says Michael.

Cathy also says Sharp’s team provided attentive and detail-oriented care.

“All of the Sharp staff members I interacted with took it upon themselves to inform me about the procedure and make the process effortless,” she says.

Both Wynn and Cathy remained at Sharp Memorial Hospital for a few days before returning home. Cathy is back at work and doing well. She’s very glad to hear that Wynn is thriving.

Wynn says he considers every day a gift and feels deep gratitude for his entire care team for helping him on his transplant journey. He, Michael, and Cathy all credit Sharp for providing expert, comforting and compassionate care. Among the many Sharp employees who helped Wynn, he thanks transplant coordinators Katie Blom and Sarah Solon.

“I feel like I’m part of a family at this point,” says Wynn. “I’ve met some of the most sincere medical professionals that I’ve encountered in my life. The most memorable part of my experience was the people at Sharp.”

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