Simmons has battled Type 2 diabetes for 20 years and last March, learned that he would need a kidney transplant. “Diabetes can damage blood vessels and prevent the kidneys from cleaning a patient’s blood properly,” explains Simmons’ kidney specialist Mitchell Jacobson, M.D., of North Shore Medical Center. “Without a transplant or regular dialysis, toxins build up in the bloodstream and threaten the patient’s life.”
After consulting with his doctors and learning that kidney transplants are more than 90 percent successful, Simmons decided that a transplant was a better option than life-long dialysis, which would be required at least three times a week for three to four hours at a time. Once he decided to pursue a transplant, the search for a donor began. Simmons’ doctors initially tested his family for a match, but none was found. Simmons’ name was placed on the national organ donor waiting list and his family also added their own recruitment efforts. They reached out through e-mail and encouraged family and friends to be tested. Eventually the emails reached thousands of people. Thirty people came forward for testing and miraculously, a match was found. The donor is known by Simmons and his family but prefers to remain anonymous.
With all of the variables working in his favor, Simmons had his kidney transplant surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital in August 2008. After a brief stay in the hospital, Simmons is now home and on his way to a full recovery. He is monitored by MGH’s transplant program and has weekly blood tests to monitor the function of his new kidney. And he continues to see his doctors at NSMC who consult and coordinate with his MGH team. “I know I’m lucky, but I owe that to my family, my donor and the great care I received,” said Simmons.