- Associated Press - Saturday, March 22, 2014

BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) - There’s a saying in Terry Russell’s trade: “We sell the Earth and everything upon it.” In fact, the auctioneer from Galax, Va., claims the only objects he hasn’t yet swapped are a ship and a locomotive. Still, the man known for procuring virtually anything was helpless to access the one item that could save his life - a kidney.

Before the Army veteran arrived at Beckley VA Medical Center, he had given up on medical treatment, first being promised he was a transplant candidate, then experiencing the depletion of hemodialysis treatments that took “everything out of my body but my soul.”

Russell says he was told by a former physician at another facility that he was already on a transplant list.

“For five years, we thought I was on that list, when I wasn’t,” Russell states.

Flashback to what caused the destruction of his kidney tissue, a nephrotoxic combination of medications to treat arthritis, and it is understandable Russell harbored a hefty dose of skepticism.

“I didn’t have a problem with my kidneys until after the medications,” he said.

The uncoordinated regimen prescribed piecemeal by different physicians proved highly destructive. “No one did kidney function tests then,” he stated. “(In the early ‘90s), they were just working on me and trying to treat the arthritis.”

Eventually, Russell found his way to the Beckley VA Medical Center, what he calls the “Taj Mahal” of facilities for veterans. He met Dr. Jorge Gordinho, whom he reveres as “one of the finest physicians that’s ever been.”

Dr. Gordinho helped to turn Russell’s declining health around by introducing him to the right type of dialysis for him, Continuous Ambulatory Peritoneal Dialysis.

CAPD is an alternative to hemodialysis for certain patients involving an implant in the peritoneum, or lining of the abdominal cavity. According to the National Kidney Center, CAPD doesn’t require a machine, only a clean well-lit place where the patient can self-treat.

Once a surgical implant is placed and the abdominal area given time to heal, the patient receives education on how to perform the procedure. A bag of dialysis solution enters via catheter into the abdomen, stays for several hours and then is drained for disposal. While the procedure isn’t for every patient needing dialysis, the self-reliant, independent Russell fit the bill.

According to Dr. Gordinho, “To be a good candidate for CAPD is to have a ‘virgin belly’ - no surgeries and therefore no adhesions. Another factor is for the patient to be an active participant in his or her treatment plan. Mr. Russell was very active and willing to do what it took to improve his outcome.”

For Russell, who was finally placed and confirmed on not one but two transplant lists (Veteran’s Health Administration and Charleston Area Medical Center), the alternative was a blessing as he waited for a donor match.

On March 24, 2013, Russell finished his last course of seven years of dialysis when he answered a call from University of Pittsburgh Medical Center telling him to leave immediately. A kidney matching his requirements had been harvested.

Russell remembers every detail of the transplant provided at UPMC, working in partnership with the VHA. Commenting on the professionalism of the staff and the high level of coordination, Russell says he was greeted at the door with preparations beginning immediately.

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