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Second Wind Lung Transplant Association

Jim Withers

By Keith Gushard

Meadville Tribune

COCHRANTON — Pam Coleman plans to give her father something very special in the coming weeks — a chance at a longer life.

Coleman plans to be a living donor for her father and donate one of her two healthy kidneys to help her dad.

Her father, Jim Withers, 71, of the Cochranton area, is a retired law enforcement officer. He’s battling end stage renal disease and needs a kidney transplant.

Withers needs the kidney transplant because of a May 2003 lung transplant he received.

“The (anti-rejection) medications (for the lung transplant) eat the kidney away,” Withers said.

Doctors told him it’s a common occurrence. He still takes about a dozen different medications a day — some more than twice a day.

“The first hour I get up is all medications,” he said of how he starts his day.

Coleman is not particularly worried about losing a kidney.

“I don’t look at it as any hardship,” Coleman said. “For my lifestyle, it’s not difficult to have one kidney. It’s letting Dad stay around longer.” Withers said he is proud of his daughter.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “What can you say?”

Withers’ two sons, Scott and Doug, as well as one of Withers’ brothers and a niece were willing to donate, but Coleman was found to be the best match.

While Coleman is the best match, Withers still will remain on the transplant list. If a better match is found before the scheduled surgery — tentatively set for January — Withers will receive that kidney instead.

The surgeries won’t just affect father and daughter, but Withers wife and Coleman’s mother, Brenda, as well

“What’s tough is there will be two operations on at the same time,” said Brenda Withers.

“Who are you going to visit first (after surgery)?,” Coleman asked with a laugh.

“I’ll be asleep in the recovery room,” Jim Withers said, suggesting his wife visit Pam first.

“It will take its toll,” Brenda Withers said.

There also is an expected toll on the family’s finances.

Insurance will cover the cost of both surgeries, but there will be a number of expenses that aren’t. Those include costs for necessary trips to and from Pittsburgh both before and after the operations, including the need for lodging while Withers and Coleman are maintaining their homes. The family is fund-raising through the National Transplant Assistance Fund. Donations to the fund are tax-deductible.

“We’ve got the operation covered, but it’s staying in Pittsburgh,” he said. “Every morning (following the operation) you have to be at the hospital to test (to make sure the body isn’t rejecting the kidney). That could take six to eight weeks.”

Those expenses are expected to cost $5,000 — if all goes well, he said.

There are also two to three days of follow-up care that will need to be done quarterly for the rest of Withers’ life.

In addition to being a transplant recipient, Withers has other heath issues.

He has diabetes and had double bypass heart surgery in 1999.

He said he just takes it all in stride.

“I’m not a worrier,” he said. “There’s nothing I can do with it — other than what I’m told to do.”

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.

This article appeared in:
The Meadville Tribune
947 Federal Court; Meadville, PA 16335
Phone: 814-724-6370, Toll Free: 800-879-0006, Fax: 814-724-8755 and has been reprinted with the permission of its author, Keith Gushard and The Meadville Tribune.