Editor’s note: Here, in his words, is the story of how one CDCR employee’s love for his sister and his determination to donate a kidney to her overcame many obstacles. Sgt. Padelford agreed to tell his story to help publicize the need for kidney donors.
Sgt. Padelford with his sister, Loretta, one day after surgery
By Sgt. Craig Padelford/ High Desert State Prison
My sister Loretta Conard has been a diabetic for many years, and in 2003 her doctors told her that her kidney function was at 20 percent.
Because our family has a history of diabetes, Loretta would not be considered for a possible kidney donation from our parents or sister. It was a “no-brainer.” I wanted to be a donor for her. The process included an interview and initial blood work to see how compatible I was with my sister.
The blood work tested six markers, and we were six out of six – a perfect match. The rest of the testing took place at University of San Francisco Medical Center (UCSF). I made many trips to San Francisco for further testing to see if I was healthy enough for donation.
Everything was doing great – passing every test with flying colors. I was cleared for donation, but Loretta’s condition stabilized and she elected to not go through with the surgery.
Fast forward to early 2010. Loretta had been on the National Kidney Registry for seven years and her kidney function was down to 5 percent.
Something needed to be done. Loretta’s doctors told her that she would need to go on dialysis until she could get a deceased donor’s kidney or I could be cleared again for donation.
It had been years since I had gone through these tests, so I would have to pass them – again. By this time I was working for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. I was seven years older, heavier and working in a more stressful job.
I passed all the tests accept for blood pressure. Because the kidneys help regulate blood pressure, the doctors at UCSF were concerned about performing surgery on me. I was given a 24-hour blood pressure monitoring unit to wear and then send back to UCSF. I then went to San Francisco for a consultation with the nephrologists (kidney doctors).
My sister and I were told the risks of the surgery. The nephrologists told me to turn to my sister and tell her that I could not donate a kidney to her because of my high blood pressure.
I told the doctors that, with all due respect, I would not tell her that. I then asked for all my records so we could find a hospital that would perform the surgery.
I was given my records and we contacted doctors at UC Davis Medical Center to see if they would complete the donation.
By this time, Loretta was on dialysis three times a week – three hours at a timeIt had pretty much taken over her life.
The UC Davis doctors agreed to put me through more tests, which included a 24-hour blood pressure test that I had already failed. I told myself that this was it. I hadto pass the test or there is no other chance.
I booked a hotel room near the medical center. After getting the monitor, I went back to my hotel, turned off all the lights and just relaxed. The next day I turned in the monitor and waited for the results to be analyzed.
The phone rang, and they told me I had passed the blood pressure test. I was asked when we would like to schedule the surgery.
It was the best news I had ever received. I called Loretta and asked her how October 26 would be for surgery. I heard nothing on the phone but tearful joy.
On the morning of October 26 I could only imagine what our parents were going through, knowing that two of their children would be in surgery at the same time.
I was the first to be prepped and told that once my kidney was harvested, medical staff would prep Loretta for surgery.
My portion of the surgery was supposed to take about four hours to complete.
Because I am tall – 6-feet-5 – the medical staff had to locate longer tools to reach my kidney. I was in surgery for approximately eight hours. Loretta was in surgery for approximately five hours.
We got out of the recovery room at the same time, but because Loretta needed around-the-clock care, we could not be in the same room during our stay. I was released from the hospital a day and a half after surgery, and Loretta was released after five days.
Loretta is very healthy and living a normal life, without any complications from the surgery. I returned to work a month after surgery with no complications. I live a normal life and try to stay as healthy as I can.