One is not the loneliest number
Curt Ricketts didn’t know he was sick. The only reason he went to the doctor in August 2015 was for treatment on his throbbing big toe.
But he didn’t have gout as was originally suspected. Instead the doctor told him both his kidneys were failing.
“They are both under 5 percent,” he remembers the doctor saying.
Once kidneys are damaged to that extent, they generally can’t be repaired.
“I was admitted that night (to the hospital),” he says.
He started dialysis the same week.
Ricketts wasn’t sure what would happen next. He added his name to the waiting list for a donated kidney and endured dialysis every night.
As the country song “Find Out Who Your Friends Are” by Tim McGraw says, “It’s when the days seem the darkest that you find out who your friends are.” Ricketts found out he had at least one friend when he ran into his cousin, Ryan Ewing, at the Boone Speedway while watching stock car racing.
As boys, the two grew up horsing around together on their grandparents’ farm.
“We’d run around the farm and steal the tractor or something stupid,” recalls Ewing. “Or watch dirt bikes or horses and create havoc, I guess.”
When Ricketts told Ewing about his kidneys, Ewing didn’t hesitate.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “I’ll get tested.”
Both Ricketts and his girlfriend agreed to help if they could, but not everyone makes for a suitable kidney donor. The donor must be healthy and share certain body chemistry traits with the recipient.
“I was a perfect match,” says Ewing. “He would have been dialysis-ridden for life or until he found a donor.”
Ricketts had some hiccups with his hemoglobin levels, so even though the transplant was scheduled for the end of the year, it ended up being postponed until May 2016. He knows more about hemoglobin than he ever thought he would.
“Your kidney filters everything you drink,” he says. “It’s about the size of your hand.”
He adds that it looks more like a filet mignon than a kidney bean.
On May 18, 2016, at Methodist Hospital, the transplant began. Ewing went in first, and the doctors surgically removed his kidney. Ricketts was wheeled in minutes later. Ewing was then wheeled out, but the kidney he left behind was just getting warmed up.
“The doctors said it started working immediately,” Ricketts says. “Usually it takes time, but it went right to work. As soon as I had his kidney, it was like, ‘boom,’ and it started going.”
The two friends had a short recovery time and were out of bed by 9:30 p.m. the same night. They both say the operation wasn’t overly painful or difficult to deal with. Each spent three days in the hospital and then went back to work after only a few weeks, each with one kidney.
So when it comes to kidneys, one isn’t “the loneliest number.” Having one kidney means someone loves you enough to give part of his body away freely.
As for Ewing, he may be down one kidney, but he’s also proven he has one big heart. And that isn’t a lonely feeling, either. ♦