A Kidney Transplant Recipient Shares Her Touching Story as Intermountain Medical Center’s Kidney Transplant Team Celebrates 30 Years of Healing

Jess Gomez

 801-718-8495

 Jess.Gomez@imail.org

 9/11/2013

Linda Mulkey found out she was in kidney failure in May 2011.

“I was devastated and scared about the diagnosis and wondered if I would ever feel well again,” she says. “I was also terrified because my husband Curt was battling pancreatic cancer and undergoing chemotherapy at the same time. I wondered how I was going to be able to care for both of us.”

Linda asked the question: “Why me?” She started dialysis, which she says was lonely and depressing. As she sat at the dialysis facility for several hours three to four days a week, she was thinking, “How could this possibly be happening to me?” She was fit. She was healthy. She was caring for her husband who was fighting for his life.

“My niece Lisa called one day to say she wanted to be tested to be the kidney donor for me,” says Linda. “I was so touched and had a new sense of hope for getting my health back.” After testing, it turned out Lisa was a perfect match.

All this time, Curt’s health was failing, and he was put on hospice. “It was such a trying time both physically and emotionally,” says Linda. Sadly, Curt passed away on August 3, 2012. His last wish was for Linda to get her kidney transplant and receive a chance for a new life.

Lisa and Linda underwent surgery on October 9, 2012, at Intermountain Medical Center.

“When I woke up from surgery I was surprised to feel better than I had in years and my recovery went well,” says Linda. Lisa’s recovery went smoothly as well and says donating a kidney to her aunt was the best experience of her life.

“I now feel strong and I can ski and hike up the mountains. Even though my heart is saddened with the loss of Curt, I am deeply and eternally grateful to Lisa for her amazing gift of life.”

Intermountain Medical Center marks the 30th anniversary of its kidney transplant program — and thousands of patients like Linda are celebrating. What started in 1983 at LDS Hospital with one transplant has grown to 2,411 transplants in 30 years. The program has become one of the best in the nation. The program was based at LDS Hospital for many years, but moved to Intermountain Medical Center in 2007.

Some facts about the kidney/pancreas transplants:
Most kidney donations we perform are from living donors. Approximately 60 percent of kidney transplants performed at Intermountain Medical Center are from living donors including family members, friends, co-workers, or “Good Samaritans,” who have no relation to or affiliation with a kidney transplant recipient.
Living donation is encouraged whenever possible for several reasons:
Shorter waiting times for recipients. The surgery is scheduled as soon as the recipient and donor complete their testing.
Better timing. The transplant may be able to take place just before the recipient requires dialysis, which helps patients avoid permanent fistula or dialysis access.
Shorter waiting lists. Living donors reduce the number of people on the deceased donor list who may not have a living donor available to them.
Less invasive procedure. Laparoscopic surgery to remove the kidney has made kidney donation more appealing to donors. Recovery time is only a few days.
EVERYONE is encouraged to sign up to be a donor. Many patients need the organs and tissues that can be donated after the donor’s death. Potential donors are assessed at the time of death to determine which organs may be recovered, and organ donation is never discussed until this point.
Don’t rule yourself out as a potential donor. Many donations are possible despite certain medical conditions and age. A person is never too old to be considered.
In Utah, you can register to be a donor at www.yesutah.org. Although your registration is legal consent for donation, it’s a good idea to talk to your family about your wishes. The conversation will give them comfort if the possibility of donating your organs becomes a reality.

Key facts about Intermountain’s kidney transplant program
• The Transplant Program did one kidney transplant in its first year — 1983
• The highest annual total of kidney transplants was 107, performed in 2003
• The Transplant team has performed 2,411 kidney transplants in the last 30 years
• The team has performed five transplants in the past week
• The Kidney Transplant Program is celebrating 30 years of kidney/pancreas transplants by holding a reception (which includes a short program) on Thursday, September 12, from 6 to 8 p.m. in Intermountain Medical Center’s education center (Building 6). ​​​
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