Methow Valley resident looks forward to ‘normal life’
By Laurelle Walsh
Randy Thordarson is starting off the new year with a new kidney and a new lease on life.
The Winthrop resident is recovering at his brother’s home in Lynnwood, Washington, after undergoing kidney transplant surgery at the University of Washington Medical Center on Dec. 9, 2015.
Though his activities are still restricted and he is not yet supposed to drive, “My stamina and everything should bounce back,” Thordarson said. “I’ll live a normal life.”
Thordarson will have a second operation later this month to remove the peritoneal dialysis access in his abdomen, he said. As soon as he gets the OK from his medical team he can return home to the Methow Valley, 10 to 12 weeks post transplant, he has been told.
“For the most part I feel normal now,” Thordarson said last week. “It’s amazing, really.”
A suitable match
Thordarson had been on the transplant list for a year and a half, after going on dialysis in 2014 due to end-stage renal failure. “It’s a blessing it was only 18 months,” he said. “Some people wait three or four years for a kidney; other people don’t qualify at all.”
Still, it was hard for him and his wife, Kathy Carney, not to get their hopes up, especially knowing that two potential donors had made it through several stages of testing, but were eventually disqualified, he said.
The non-stop regimen of home dialysis — nine-and-a-half hours on the machine nightly plus manual exchange every afternoon — took its toll on the couple, mentally, physically and financially. Thordarson could not work; he developed several hernias requiring surgery; and, while dialysis replaces about 15 percent of normal kidney function, over time it puts strain on the heart and other organs. “You can only really do home dialysis for so long,” Thordarson said.
So it was a great relief last September when they learned that a suitable match had been found, and a surprise to find out that the donor would be Thordarson’s long-time friend and bandmate, Kelley Reid.
“We didn’t even know he was doing testing,” Carney said. “He visited us as usual last summer, but he didn’t tell us he was doing donor testing at the UW at that time.”
Reid, who has lived in England with his wife, Julie, since 1997, comes back to “the homeland” (Seattle) at least once a year to visit family and friends, he said. He underwent several days of donor testing at the University of Washington last August, but didn’t tell Thordarson about it because he “didn’t want to give him false hope,” Reid said.
Back home in England, Reid learned he was a suitable donor. His family supported his decision to donate a kidney, and his employer — The American School in London — offered him “whole-hearted support” and a month’s paid leave to come to the United States in December, Reid said.
“Kelley called me at the end of September and said, ‘I’m a go,’” Thordarson recalls. “It was a complete surprise.”
“Before the surgery, I talked a lot with my wife about my fears,” said Reid. “I asked questions and got useful answers from the team at the UW; I stayed true to my faith, and my commitment to this decision was strengthened. I came to believe that to donate my kidney to Randy was both an opportunity and a privilege. As St. Francis teaches us, ‘It is in giving that we receive,’” he added.
The transplant was a success and, according to Carney, “The surgeon said it was one of the healthiest kidneys he’s ever seen.”
Reid has been told he will not require any special care in the years to come; in fact, “Statistics indicate that donors live out healthier lives than those who have not donated,” he said. “The remaining kidney is quite capable of doing what needs to be done,” he added.
Thordarson will take anti-rejection medications for the rest of his life to prevent his body from attacking the foreign kidney, Carney said, and a weakened immune system will require him to be careful of infections, avoid close contact with people who have contagious illnesses, and closely regulate his blood pressure and blood sugar. “You just have to be careful and pay attention,” Carney said.
Thordarson said he looks forward to returning to an active lifestyle: skiing, bike riding, hiking and the ability to travel unimpeded by the daily dialysis routine.
And The Rondos — the Seattle-based rock band that the two men have been in for over 30 years — just might play a reunion gig in the Methow Valley this summer. “You never know,” Thordarson said.