When Philip Gennis needed a kidney transplant late last year, his brother Michael was tested, proved to be a match, and did not hesitate to become a living donor. Well on their way to recovery, the Gennis brothers encourage all to become organ donors.
Growing up in Ottawa, “the Gennises were raised on the premise that if someone needs help, you help.”
So, when Michael Gennis’ brother Philip needed a kidney, it was a no brainer.
The most common living organ donation is the kidney. In 2015, there were 221 Ontario residents who received a living kidney transplant.
On December 13, Philip Gennis received a kidney from his brother.
“I’d been dealing with decreased kidney function for 15 years, and it got progressively worse over time,” said Philip, 66, a licensed insolvency trustee who lives in Toronto. “About 18 months ago, it got to the point where my brother, Michael, and my wife, Sandy, did blood matching testing and they both qualified.”
“Once a transplant became a possibility, a whole bunch of people in the family put their hands up,” said Michael, 59, a real estate broker. “I thought that no young people should do it. I’m extremely healthy, and my partner, Robert Birnbaum, is a physician and could look after me. I never lost a minute’s sleep over it. We had a lot of people cheering for us. I never once hesitated.”
Michael says that, when he talks to people about kidney donation, many question whether they themselves would do it.
“I’ve used the opportunity to educate people about kidney disease, living organ donation and the fine work the Trillium Foundation does. The program at St. Michael’s [Hospital in Toronto] is wonderful, as is Renewal. Renewal is a [Jewish] organization dedicated to assisting people suffering from various forms of kidney disease and helping connect donors with recipients.” http://tinyurl.com/hbvrqat
As the kidney donor, Michael said his health is now fine.
“My kidney function deteriorated initially, but then the remaining kidney picked up the slack. You end up with kidney function at about the 87 per cent level, and live as a normal person … It just went beautifully,” he said.
Two months before the surgery, Philip was told his skin colour was somewhat pallid, although he was asymptomatic and wasn’t lacking in energy. The decision was made in November to proceed with the transplant in an effort to pre-empt dialysis, something that is taxing on the body and on the patient’s quality of life. They booked a date and had the surgery at St. Michael’s Hospital.
The surgery was a complete success, as it is for most kidney recipients. One year after surgery, 90 to 97 per cent of transplanted kidneys are working at a level that makes dialysis unnecessary.
Philip is happy with his recovery.
“My kidney is functioning marvellously, and I’m back to work part-time … The process is very organized. You’re monitored [regularly] for five years at least, and annually thereafter,” he said. “I feel great. I am on a regimen of anti-rejection medications, which I will be taking for life. These medications suppress the immune system of the recipient, but this a small price to pay for a renewed quality of life. I’m only taking Tylenol for pain. I’m well on the road to recovery.”
The Gennis brothers now encourage others to become organ donors.
“Everyone should sign that donor card,” said Philip. “Let your family know you’ve signed the donor card and that’s your plan.”
He also notes there are no restrictions within Judaism to being an organ donor.
“Orthodox rulings allow transplant donations to save a life. It’s a mitzvah. To donate on a live basis is an even greater mitzvah.
“It’s such an unselfish gift to give another human being. It’s very difficult to show gratitude for something like this. My brother and I were close and this has brought us closer. I have a part of my brother in me. There is no greater gift than the gift of life,” said Philip.
According to the Ottawa Hospital website: “A suitable [kidney] donor is someone who is over 18, is willing to donate a kidney, is in good health, is psychologically stable, is capable of giving informed consent, [and] is motivated to unconditionally improve the recipient’s quality of life.” http://tinyurl.com/hewb8cp
The Ottawa Hospital also notes, “Donors should not have the following: diabetes, kidney disease, serious heart disease, most types of cancers, [or] significant obesity. There are other health problems that may limit donors. These are determined on an individual basis.”
Visit the Trillium Gift of Life Network at www.giftoflife.on.ca for more information on organ donation.