Groundbreaking surgery brought a new beginning to one Tri-State man living with polycystic kidney disease and helped him dodge dialysis altogether — but in order to make it happen, he needed help from dozens of other people.
“I couldn’t breathe, hardly,” said Hubbard of his symptoms. “It was causing difficulty breathing. Any length of time walking, it felt like (my legs) were going to explode.”
Hubbard and his wife, Michelle, began a search for solutions that eventually led them to the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, one of the few places in the nation that can perform a kidney removal and replacement together.
The Hubbards found a way to make it happen faster.
A paired kidney donation is a process that involves some internal mixing and matching: when a person in need of a kidney has a willing donor, but that donor is not compatible with the intended recipient, they can reach out to others in the same situation.
A hypothetical Donor A may not be compatible with her husband, Patient A, but she may be a match for Patient B — and Patient B’s spouse, Donor B, may be compatible with Patient A. The two pairs can then work with doctors to set up an exchange: Donor A will give a kidney to Patient B, and Donor B will give a kidney to Patient A. This way, both patients are able to quickly receive the surgery they need.
Michelle Hubbard could not donate her own kidney to Wayne, but she could donate it to someone who knew another compatible donor.
“Without any risks, there’s no reward,” Michelle said. "I kind of knew some of the risks of donating a kidney, but really, the reward outweighed those risks, in my opinion: to see Wayne benefit and get the quality of life back that he needed and deserved.”
The paired kidney exchange circulated through 28 different people before making its way back to Wayne Hubbard, and, with the help of the University of Maryland Medical Center, he was finally able to get his miracle.
“He had immediate function of his graft and never had to go on dialysis,” said Dr. David Leeser, who specializes in kidney transplantation at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
“They can help you,” said Wayne Hubbard. “They can take them out and they can put a kidney in, and I’m proof of that.”