Bryan Howard - 24

Bryan Howard“At age 39, I got really sick, and it kind of happened out of nowhere. I had diabetes, but I had it under control. I was in the process of transferring from Ohio to Montgomery. I came here and was living by myself and trying to find a place for my family to live so they could move down. 
“I became so sick that I ended up in the hospital. I was diagnosed with diabetic ketoacidosis and I was in stage-two kidney failure. We were able to get the diabetes under control in 45 days, but the kidney failure was a battle. I had high blood pressure, too, so it was difficult. 

“In the meantime, I lost my job, in part because when I got sick, I lost my sight. I had diabetic retinopathy, and they had to do surgery on my eyes. I’m now legally blind. I can’t see fine print. I can’t drive anymore. I was an IT professional working with F-16s, so it was quite a blow. 

“I eventually went into stage-four kidney failure and kept total failure at bay for six months. During that time, my stepmother, Maria, offered her kidney to me, and we went through the process. Her kidney was too tiny for my build, which is why we went into the swap program.
“It was almost a year to the day from when I started peritoneal dialysis until I received my transplant. When I originally started to get on the waiting list, I was told it would probably be 12 to 15 years before I would receive a transplant because of my O-negative blood type. My stepmom’s blood type is O, and with the new technologies and rejection drugs we learned that it could be done. I immediately was called by UAB, and they told me they had a donor for me. They originally told me I would probably get my transplant in November or December, but I wound up getting a call pretty quickly telling me they needed me at the end of August. I had the transplant on August 29.
“The transplant was quite interesting. Everything went well. I didn’t feel any pain after I woke up from the surgery. I was just lethargic from the medication. I actually got up and walked pretty quickly afterwards. All of the doctors told me it was an amazing surgery because they hadn’t even finished suturing me up before my kidney started kicking in. It was almost instantaneous. I got up the first of September and walked the eighth floor of the hospital and got lost.
“It was funny. Someone asked me, ‘Why did you walk so far?’ I said, ‘I feel like I’m 20.’
“I do talk with Laura Lee, the woman who gave me my kidney, and that’s an interesting story. I used to live in Hernando, Mississippi, which is about 20 minutes south of Memphis. I ended up knowing her best friend. It’s a small world. I call Laura my kidney sister. She’s a sweetheart. 

HowardsBryan Howard (seated) with his father, Dennis, and son, Sean“My children mean everything to me. I decided when I got sick and went on disability, that I wanted to live to see them grow up, get married, fall in and out of love and get to see my grandchildren if they ever have them.
“We’re a very close family, the three of us. I do everything for Sean, and he does everything for me. He’s my little bear. My daughter, Meghan, is 19, and I do my best to be there for her. When I was really ill, I couldn’t do a lot for them. I had struggles getting Sean to baseball and even doing homework with them. That’s why Maria offered to give me her kidney, because I was dwindling.
“Now, I’m able to chase Sean around the house and get after him when he doesn’t clean his room. 

“I consider myself to be lucky. It feels great to be a part of this chain. It’s great trying to tell people who need help that kidney transplant is not frightening. You have support from a multitude of people, from the staff to the doctors and the surgeons. It’s great that this chain has been put together so we can share our stories with others in need and do what we can to bring awareness about the power of living kidney donation.”

Celebrating the nation's longest kidney chain

High-tech medicine and human kindness combine in UAB's ongoing kidney chain, a series of transplant surgeries that have given 101 people so far a new lease on life. The chain is the nation's longest ever.

The kidney chain has been kept going by many remarkable acts of sacrifice, and has revealed many moving stories of determination. Tyler Williamson went to TEDx Birmingham’s 2017 event in March expecting to be inspired and to network and make new connections with fellow attendees. What the 27-year-old did not anticipate was that inspiration would lead him to volunteer to become a living kidney donor just seven months later. See his story in this video:

In their words, stories from our transplant donors and recipients.

Kendra BrooksKendra Brooks. After more than four years of dialysis treatments, Kendra Brooks received her transplant in April 2016. Kendra’s mom donated a kidney so her daughter could receive one and wrote a letter to share the news. “It said, ‘God has answered our prayers. We have a match.’ I cried puddles of tears of joy,” Kendra says. Learn more about Kendra.

sheldon vaughn webSheldon Vaughn. High blood pressure and diabetes ravaged Sheldon Vaughn’s kidneys, and it was the kindness of two donors who helped him achieve a transplant. “A dialysis nurse my wife and I came to know wanted to donate to me, but wasn’t a match for me, and her kidney went to a woman in Florida. But because of her donation, I was able go on the UAB list and received my kidney from a young woman named Nicole who had contacted UAB and wanted to donate her kidney to anybody. So in a sense, I feel like I have two donors.” Learn more about Sheldon.

laura burks w Laura Burks. With a desire to help others, Laura Burks was looking for her next opportunity when a friend posted on her blog about how she was going to donate a kidney. “I thought, ‘That is what I need to do,’ Laura says. “Before that, I didn’t know you could be a loving donor. I thought it was something that happens after you pass away. After realizing that I could give away an organ that I don’t have to have to live with, I thought, ‘If I don’t do this, my life’s not complete.’ I just knew somebody needed a kidney and they’re depending on some stranger to give up theirs, and I was that stranger. Learn more about Laura.

William Harris w William Harris. High blood pressure caused William Harris’ kidneys to fail, and he was told he would eventually need a kidney transplant to live. After nine years of dialysis treatments, his wish came true. “When I was told I was a candidate to get a transplant, and that there was a match for me, I didn’t have any fears,” William says. “I was humbled to know that someone wanted to give me a kidney.” Learn more about William.

Become a part of the chain

Donate a kidney 
If you would like to donate to someone in need of a transplant, begin by filling out this form. You can learn more about kidney transplantation at UAB here.  

Get on the list
If you are in need of a kidney transplant, you will need a referral from your nephrologist. Your doctor can get all the details here.

Give a gift
Support the UAB Comprehensive Transplant Institute with a donation online .

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UAB Kidney Chain news

kidney chain 100 graphic kc siteNation’s longest single-site kidney chain reaches 100

To date, 101 living donors have changed the lives of 101 recipients as part of the nation’s longest ongoing single-center paired kidney transplant chain.

kc baseball thumbUAB baseball team helps Mississippi family cope with loss of father, husband

Young boy loses his dad, but finds many father figures on UAB's baseball team.

div kcFrom transplant lab worker to donor, employee becomes part of UAB’s world-record kidney chain

Divyank Saini is a UAB lab technologist and one of 17 employees who work behind the scenes at UAB Hospital to bring hope to those waiting on heart, lung, kidney, liver and other transplants. Saini made a decision that he wanted to do more than just his important work of interpreting lab samples to find the right matches. He decided to become a living donor and is UAB Kidney Chain donor No. 57. 

chalice kc2Science, generosity save lives in UAB Kidney Chain

Meet a family bound not by blood or name, but by their kidneys in the world’s longest living-donor kidney transplant chain. Discover how science and human kindness come together to save lives.

kc surgeryIncompatible, yet needed: What are incompatible kidney transplants? And why are they done?

The human body is primed to identify and destroy invaders like viruses, bacteria and other pathogens that can bring illness or death. Cells of the immune system and the antibodies they make recognize such foreign bodies and act to remove and destroy them. This defense system is a potential problem for kidney transplants. People have different blood groups and different human leukocyte antigens that can provoke an attack if a tissue, such as a kidney, or blood is transferred from one person to another. These two barriers are called blood group incompatibility and tissue (or histo-) incompatibility. A kidney transplant team uses the histocompatibility and blood bank testing laboratories to determine whether the tissues and blood group of a volunteer living kidney donor and the intended recipient match. A match is good, but matches are not always possible.

Jerry Phillips kcCommunity of the South: Donors help stretch UAB Kidney Chain to record 51 transplants

Fifty-first transplant means 102 total surgeries have been performed since December 2013 as the nation’s longest-ever chain continues to grow.

thompson kcNation’s longest kidney transplant chain reaches 34

The UAB kidney chain, which began December 2013 and expects more transplants in January 2015, ‘showcases the power of the human spirit in every aspect.’

nightline kcNation’s largest single-site kidney transplant chain underway at UAB

Since December, 21 living donor kidney transplants that have taken place at UAB are connected as donors “pay it forward” for a recipient to keep the chain going, and more transplants are scheduled for July.

locke press conferenceSnow can’t stop the Southeast’s largest kidney transplant chain at UAB

The unexpected 2014 snowstorm that crippled the Southeast did not deter the transplant team at UAB from continuing the largest nondirected donor chain ever performed at a single center in the Southeast. 

1080px UPDATE Kidney map 2018

The kidney chain has brought donors and recipients to UAB from across the eastern United States and as far away as Oregon.

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Learn more

dr locke video

UAB transplant surgeon Jayme Locke, M.D., and transplant nephrologist Vineeta Kumar, M.D., discuss living kidney donation and paired-kidney exchange in a series of videos on UAB's MD Learning Channel.