After a series of bizarre illnesses, including pneumonia in July, Mitch Petty was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder called Common Variable Immune Deficiency (CVID) in 2002. CVID is a disorder whereby a person does not have antibodies to fight off infection. Since his diagnosis, Mitch has received frequent infusions to replace his immune globulins, the antibodies that fight infections.
Beginning in 2009, Deaconess Clinical/Oncology Pharmacist, Charlie Bockelman, mixed the infusion solutions for Mitch’s treatments. After having Mitch as a patient in the Deaconess Clinic Infusion Center for some time, Charlie made the connection that Mitch was married to Meredith Petty, his co-worker in the Deaconess Pharmacy Department.
In 2011, Mitch began having declining kidney function. To preserve some of his kidney function, doctors put Mitch on a high dose of steroids for one year. In October 2012, the combination of steroids and CVID caused Mitch to get Pneumocystis Pneumonia (PCP) – an aggressive form of pneumonia most often seen in AIDS patients. Mitch spent two weeks in intensive care on a ventilator and another month in a rehabilitation hospital. Charlie, the pharmacist, continued to check on Mitch and provide care as needed during his hospital stay.
During his health event, Mitch’s kidneys quit working and he had to begin dialysis treatment before he left the intensive care unit. In May 2013, Mitch began receiving his dialysis at home instead of a dialysis center. His wife, Meredith, administers the three-hour treatment, six days of the week using a home hemodialysis machine. Meredith says the process is difficult, especially since she works full time and has three children at home, but the benefits to Mitch are worth the extra effort. Home dialysis provides more comfort for Mitch, minimizes the amount of drugs received in one session and therefore lessens the side effects from the treatments.
Mitch Makes the List
On May 30, 2013, Mitch was officially placed on the living donor kidney transplant list at Indiana University Health University Hospital. Mitch’s physician and transplant coordinator said there is usually a five year wait for an organ match. They strongly encourage patients to reach out to family and friends and share their story. You never know what someone is willing to give until you ask.
After a few weeks, Meredith created a Facebook page called “A Kidney for Mitch” to help tell Mitch’s story and connect anyone interested in donating a kidney to the Indiana University Health Transplant Center. In addition to family and friends, Meredith told her co-workers about the site.
Co-worker and pharmacist, Charlie, read the story on Facebook and was moved. After realizing Charlie and Mitch both had type O blood – the first piece of finding a donor – Charlie asked his wife to read Mitch’s story. “My wife just looked at me and said, ‘so, are you going to get tested?’” said Charlie. And that’s exactly what he did. Without telling Meredith, Charlie called the IU Transplant Center to see if he really was a match for Mitch. After several days and rounds of tests, it turned out that Charlie’s kidney would be compatible with Mitch’s.
At this point, Charlie and his wife, Jennifer, had to decide what would happen next. Would Charlie really have surgery, remove an organ, and give it to a man he didn’t know that well? Did he really want to take off work for 4 weeks to recover from a surgery he didn’t need to have? “Mitch has small kids like I do,” says Charlie. “I knew he was positive, had a great outlook on life, and was willing to wait his turn for a donor kidney. I wanted him to have the opportunity to see his kids grow up. That’s why I decided to donate my kidney to him.”
Charlie called Meredith on a Saturday and said he would like to talk with her and Mitch. “I want to share some news with you,” he said. Meredith had no idea that her co-worker Charlie was interested in being a donor, let alone, completed the screening tests and was declared a suitable donor for Mitch.
“Mitch was in town at Wal-Mart when Charlie called,” Meredith said. “I waited for him to get home, but he was taking his time. Charlie called again and this time he told me it had to do with him donating a kidney to Mitch. There was probably five minutes of silence on the phone before I could say anything.”
Deciding she couldn’t wait any longer, Meredith drove to Wal-Mart, picked up Mitch and drove straight to Charlie’s house. Although he couldn’t fully appreciate the news he was about to receive, Mitch knew something big was happening when Meredith said they were going to her co-worker’s house.
“Never did I even conceive the thought that someone I work with would do this. This amazing man and his amazing family have decided to help save Mitch's life. We have spent some time with Charlie and Jennifer and they truly are our heroes. We will never forget what they have done for us and are willing to do for us. Their kids, Max and Evan, will grow up knowing that their Dad and Mom are giving us a gift that we can never repay, that is so selfless and heartfelt……..and what angels they are,” Meredith wrote on her Facebook page.
Charlie replied, “After Friday, we have absolutely no doubt that this is the right thing to do. We got to say it out loud many times, to explain our decision. We are here for Mitch. He is a wonderful father, husband, and friend. He deserves the best chance to improve his quality and quantity of life.”
After several more rounds of testing, the kidney specialists gave Charlie the green light to be Mitch’s donor. The two men went to Indianapolis on September 5th for pre-operative testing and are scheduled for surgery Monday morning, September 9th.
Charlie said his surgery begins first. Shortly after the process of removing his kidney begins, Mitch will be taken to the adjoining operating room and prepare to receive the donor kidney. At the end of the process, Charlie will have one kidney, while Mitch will have three. They will stay in the hospital for a few days to recover from surgery and then, provided there are no complications, will be released to go home.
Be sure to check the Deaconess Facebook page often for updates on the surgery and recovery process. We are so thrilled to be able to share this story of human kindness and compassion with you.