Tony Brady (right) with kidney donor and friend Ken Kuiper.
See moving video of how this long-distance transplant came about.
I worked as a radiology administrator at Stony Brook Medical Center in Stony Brook, N.Y. In 1987, while speaking to an engineer who had just completed the installation of a recently purchased ultrasound unit, he asked if there was a patient available for a technologist to scan and for him to verify the accuracy of his calibration. I volunteered, and a tumor was found on my right kidney. That kidney was surgically removed and evidence of microscopic cancer cells was found.
After more than a decade of relatively good health, I started feeling consistently tired despite sleeping well. My doctor referred me to a nephrologist, who informed me that my solitary kidney was failing.
Choosing a Transplant Center
I was then placed on dialysis. As you can imagine, I immediately began investigating and reviewing both local and national kidney transplant programs. This review included speaking to physicians and many of the radiologists that I worked with, patients at my dialysis center and reading information in various medical journals.
I selected the University of Maryland Medical Center to be the first place to visit because of the reputation of its kidney transplant program, the annual number of successful transplant surgeries compared to other centers, and the experience of the surgeons and nephrologists as well as that of patients who received their transplant at UMMC.
My wife and I attended the transplant orientation program, which, in our opinion, was conducted in a very professional and thorough manner. All questions from the attendees were answered thoroughly by the coordinator and with demonstrated compassion regarding the concerns of each patient and their family.
At the end of the orientation program we were impressed by the professionalism of all the support staff and by their offers to help us in any way possible. Before leaving for the airport, we entered the hospital and were once more very pleased -- and I must admit a bit surprised -- at the number of hospital staff, including attending physicians, who waved or said, “Hi.”
On our way back to the airport, my wife and I decided that the UMMC transplant program would be our choice, not only because of the quality of the program but also because it appeared to us that the hospital community has embraced a patient and visitor support program.
“Paying it Forward”
My relationship with Ken [Kuiper, who donated a kidney to Tony] was very casual and friendly as we saw each other and spoke at least once a year at the Radiological Society of North America’s annual scientific convention. It is still extremely difficult and emotional for me to find words for Ken and others, whose selfless act of human kindness provided their recipients with the precious "gift of a new life" that can never be repaid. Whenever I ask Ken what can I do to repay this wonderful gift of a new lease on life for my family and me, his response is always the same… “Pay It Forward.”
In "Paying it Forward", both Ken and I have agreed to use our transplant experience where possible to educate and facilitate conversation on what can be a difficult decision for many. Our educational goals include:
Memorable Patient Care Team
It is also noteworthy to recognize the wonderful doctors, nurses, professional and ancillary staff involved in my care as well as their ongoing willingness to insure that all of my needs were met. This became evident upon admission, as everyone who interacted with me did ask before leaving “Is there anything else I could do for you?” The following are but a few examples of the wonderful folks at UMMC:
The nurse in the Anesthesia ICU when I awoke, who asked if there was anything she could do for me before ending her shift and introducing me to the nurse that was going to be taking care of me during the rest of my stay in the unit. I learned it was already 30 minutes after her shift ended.
The nurse who took over after she left -- even with a very combative patient to take care of -- found the time to frequently check with me to see that all my needs were met.
The nurse practitioners who supported me and gave me their pager number to call if I needed anything.
Along with the nurses and ancillary staff, the attending physicians and surgical residents also did the same. But what also remains with me as I discussed my experience at UMMC with others was the surgical resident who was part of a team that saw my wife and me on the day I was discharged who said, “I will be back to see you before you leave.” I was discharged around 4 p.m., and as I was placed in the wheelchair this resident appeared to wish me well. He also said these comforting words … “Is there anything else we can do for you, and please call us if you have any additional questions or concerns.”
It is for the aforementioned reasons that I, in discussing or sharing information on my kidney transplant experience, enthusiastically recommend UMMC.
Lastly, not only am I blessed with Ken’s generous gift, but my family and I are now considered by Ken and his immediate family as members of their extended family.
This, I believe, is unique in the transplant recipient community, as my wife and I do hear from Ken, his parents or one of his sisters at least every two to three weeks.