After falling ill and urinating blood at age 16, Tim Guimon was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy — a kidney disease that causes inflammation and interferes with the kidney’s ability to filter waste from blood. He also learned that he was born with one kidney smaller than the other, and that these conditions could cause issues throughout his life.
“At that time, though, I didn’t have any major symptoms,” Tim says. “My doctor said I was doing fine, but warned me that it would probably progress as I got older. So for about 10 years, I kind of neglected to think about my kidneys.”
But when he was 26 years old, Tim’s wife, Kerstin, noticed that his legs were unusually swollen. Though he initially didn’t think it was a big deal, Kerstin and his mom, Sandy, encouraged him to see a doctor to determine if the swelling was related to his kidneys.
After a checkup and bloodwork, Tim’s doctor explained that his kidney function was below 10 percent and that he needed to start dialysis “like yesterday.” Tim immediately began going for dialysis three times a week at a dialysis center and eventually started in-home dialysis.
Finding a match
Dialysis, however, was a temporary fix. The dialysis treatments filtered Tim’s blood to remove waste, salt and extra water, helped maintain a safe balance of chemicals in his blood and controlled his blood pressure. However, Tim’s kidney was in such bad shape that he desperately needed a kidney transplant — and he was put on the transplant list at Rush. Over the next year or so, while he waited for a kidney to become available, Tim continued juggling regular dialysis treatments, a demanding job as a forklift operator at a warehouse and a soon-to-be-growing family.
With the birth of Tim’s first child about four months away, Tim’s family members started getting tested to see if one of them could be a living kidney donor for him. His dad, also named Tim, came up as a perfect match.
Tim senior did not think twice about stepping up to donate a kidney to his son. “I would do anything for him; they could take whatever they want from me if it would save his life,” he says.
Preparing for transplant
The Guimons worked closely with Edward Hollinger, Jr., MD, PhD, a kidney transplant surgeon, Brittany Hohoff, RN, the living donor transplant coordinator, and the entire transplant team at Rush to prepare for the surgeries.
Hohoff helped the Guimons navigate the multifaceted transplant process. She coordinated their appointments, tests and evaluations. She also helped Tim senior through the process of using family medical leave from his job to ensure he was set up with job-protected leave for his surgery and recovery.
“Brittany really got things done; she was so awesome,” says Tim senior.
Tim junior agrees: “Other than going to the hospital every other week for bloodwork, it was a really easy process, and everyone at Rush did such a phenomenal job. They helped us get organized, took care of me and my dad, and were so accommodating to all of our needs and our family’s needs.”
After a month of tests, evaluations and preparations, the transplant date was set for early March 2016 — just two months after Tim’s baby girl, Claire, was born.
A brand-new man
“The day before the transplant, I was really nervous,” says Tim junior. “I stopped by my parents’ house the night before, thanked my dad for doing this and just tried not to get too teary-eyed!”
The next morning, the Guimons and their families met at Rush and stayed together until Tim senior was prepped for surgery. A couple hours later, Tim junior was ready for his kidney transplant.
When Tim junior woke up after surgery, he instantly felt better. “It was amazing,” he says. “I felt 100 times better, like a brand-new man.”
About two months after surgery, Tim senior was back to work as a generator mechanic. And now, over a year later, he still feels good.
“I haven’t noticed any difference in the way I feel or in my overall health since donating a kidney to my son,” says Tim senior. “But Tim is a thousand times better. He looks better, he’s gained some weight, and it’s just been great. I would not hesitate to do it all over again.”
Tim junior is thriving. He is enjoying being a dad to his young daughter, is back to work as a crew lead at the warehouse, and goes to follow-up appointments with Hollinger at a Rush transplant satellite location in Lisle every two months.
“I haven’t had any complications since the surgery, and I’m feeling good,” he says. “I want people who may be waiting for a transplant to remember that there’s always hope.”
April is National Donate Life month. During this month, we honor those who have saved lives as organ donors and encourage others to register as organ, eye and tissue donors. Visit rush.edu/living-donor for more information about the living kidney donor program at Rush.