Two Beaumont kidney transplant recipients: One year later


Both are forever grateful to donors who offered their kidneys

You never know who will step forward in times of need. For Nancy Noble, 48, of Berkley, it was her brother’s girlfriend and for Sid Thomas, 75, of Royal Oak, it was a member of his church.

Despite Nancy’s medications and Sid’s dialysis, both were losing their battles with kidney disease.

                    Nancy Noble (left) and Michelle Rogers

About 18 months ago, Nancy was told she’d require a kidney transplant. The news came as a shock. She managed her kidney disease for 20 years, and now it had taken a turn for the worse. Then 47, she recalls, “My jaw hit the ground.”

Searching for a donor

After none of Nancy’s family members were a match, her brother’s girlfriend came forward. Subsequent testing with Beaumont’s Multi-Organ Transplantation team at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak confirmed Michelle Rogers, then 45, of Ypsilanti was indeed a match. On April 2, 2014 she underwent a kidney transplant procedure.

Vietnam vet, Sid Thomas, was growing weary of dialysis treatments. His health and quality of life were deteriorating. He was weak, tired and frustrated. He had diabetes for years and was told he’d need a kidney transplant and there might be a 3-5 year wait after his name was added to the list of those needing kidneys.

Sid, who was active in his church, was encouraged by an associate pastor to share his story with the congregation right before Christmas 2013. He did and a short time later, church member Julie Work, then 47, of Bloomfield Hills, came forward. After extensive testing at Beaumont, she was deemed one of the best matches for Sid. On Feb. 26, 2014, Sid received one of Julie’s kidneys at Beaumont.

Regarding possible live donors, testing and likelihood of matches, “Most people are usually surprised at how extensive it is. We end up turning down close to 60-65 percent of people who step forward as donors,”  explains Dilip Samarapungavan, M.D., medical director, Multi-Organ Transplantation at Beaumont.

Since Beaumont’s kidney transplant program began in 1972, more than 2,100 transplants have been performed. In 2013, the Multi-Organ Transplant team performed 82 kidney and 16 liver transplants. Beaumont’s transplantation program offers the latest technology and minimally invasive surgical techniques for kidney and liver procedures with a team comprised of highly trained surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, technicians, kidney specialists, liver specialists, social workers, dietitians and financial consultants.

One year later

                              Julie Work and Sid Thomas

More than thirteen months after receiving Julie’s kidney, Sid says, “Healthwise I feel fantastic. I’m regaining my strength and with the warmer weather, I’m anxious to return to my gardening.”

Nancy, who recently celebrated her one year anniversary says, “I feel really good. I have a lot more energy than I did before the transplant and I’m not worrying about my kidneys anymore. The kidney is working great and all my results have come back within normal range except for low magnesium. I take a daily magnesium supplement.”

Both Sid and Nancy are grateful for their donor’s gift of a kidney. “Michelle doesn’t think that what she did was a big deal, but it was,” explains Nancy. “I am amazed every day when I hear of people donating a kidney to someone.”

“I can’t say enough about my donor Julie. We stay in touch. It’s remarkable the way it came about. It’s a story of second chances,” says Sid. “We have formed a strong bond. A day doesn’t go by where I’m not thankful for her gift.”

Making the grade

Nancy and Sid are just two examples of successful transplants. The federal government periodically releases outcomes, scoring transplant centers nationwide, including Beaumont, Royal Oak. Recent data from the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients shows Beaumont’s kidney transplant program is one of the top programs in the U.S. Specifically, Beaumont ranks in the top 3 percent for patient survival after the first year. Says Dr. Samarapungavan, “The recent data confirms what we’ve thought for some time, that our kidney transplant program is not only one of the best in the nation, but the best in Michigan.”

Modest donors

Both donors - Michelle Rogers, now a resident of California, and Julie Work are rather modest about their roles in the transplant process.

“I don’t miss my kidney at all,” Michelle says. “If it wasn’t for my scar to remind me, I would forget I only had one.”

Julie Work recalls, “I never once struggled with the choice to donate. My struggle came only when responding to people's well-meaning accolades.”  In her journal she wrote, “ … When someone says, ‘I'm proud of you.’  What can I say?  I know they mean well ... But I am uncomfortable talking about it. Mostly, I've been replying with ‘God is good.’  Or ‘God answers prayers.’ To say, ‘thank you’ sounds like I think I deserve their praise - when it is God, alone, who deserves all the praise!  When asked how I am feeling or when someone informs me of how I must be feeling (which I think must really be how they would be feeling) ... I can honestly answer with: ‘Peaceful. Honored.’"   

For anyone thinking about being a kidney donor, Michelle says the trade-off is one that can’t be beat. “A few weeks of healing time and putting my regular routine on hold in exchange for knowing I helped someone live a longer life. Now that’s priceless.”