UC program gives obese patients chance for transplant

Jeffrey Himes received a Sleeve Gastrectomy at UC Health. (FOX19 Lisa Huston)
Jeffrey Himes received a Sleeve Gastrectomy at UC Health. (FOX19 Lisa Huston)

(FOX19) - Imagine being in desperate need of a kidney transplant and no hospital willing to give you one. It happens more often than you think, but while most medical centers in the country are saying no, UC Health is saying yes.

"He just come out and told my wife. He was blunt about it. He said we don't think he'll make it," said Jeffrey Himes. After having his appendix rupture not once but twice, Himes' health began rapidly declining. His kidneys took the hardest hit.

"They were functioning but barely and they kept deteriorating until they finally just shut down and I had ballooned up to 324 pounds," said Himes.

Jeffrey needed a kidney transplant but because of his weight, no doctor would approve it until he met the transplant team at UC Health.

"Saw him, evaluated him, and said you know what? He can be a potential person that we could do a sleeve on, get his weight down to the point where we could do a transplant," said Dr. Tayyab Diwan, UC Health Transplant and Gastric Sleeve Surgeon.

It's called a Sleeve Gastrectomy. It is a weight loss surgery performed by transplant doctors to prepare patients for a new organ quickly. It is one of the only programs in the country giving obese patients a fighting chance for transplants.

"No longer are these patients told to go back home and not be on the list and not to be evaluated at the transplant center. We can help them out," said Dr. Amit Govil, UC Health Nephrologist.

Jeffrey had the surgery in November and received a kidney transplant on Friday. His donor, a friend and customer at his general store, also had a Sleeve Gastrectomy making her eligible to give him her kidney. Since November, Jeffrey has lost nearly 100 lbs. getting his body ready to handle the new organ that saved his life.

"I found out in my life. I'm 58 years old that 90% of anything in life is attitude. And you've got to have a good positive mental attitude to make it in anything," said Himes.

UC Health transplant surgeons have been performing these weight loss surgeries for about 2.5 years. They estimate more than 200 lives have been saved through the program.

UC Health says living donor kidneys have double the survival rate for a recipient (18-25 years). If you would like to donate a kidney to someone in need, call UC Health at 513-584-8313.

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