Kidney donation

Candia couple truly a perfect match

Union Leader Correspondent
March 23. 2013 12:36AM
Ronald Jawidzik of Candia is on the mend after a January transplant in which he received a kidney donated by his wife, Virginia. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

CANDIA - Many of us want to believe we're a perfect match with our significant other - that we were somehow born for each other.

A Candia man in need of a kidney transplant received just such a confirmation late last year when his wife discovered - in a 1-in-100 chance - that she was a match for the kidney operation.

Ronald Jawidzik, a 69-year-old disabled veteran, was diagnosed with Type II diabetes that he says is attributed to his exposure to Agent Orange, a defoliant used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. Faced with kidney failure, he was placed on dialysis at the Manchester Kidney Center under the care of Dr. David Friedenberg in May 2012. He also received care at the Manchester Veterans Administration Medical Center under Dr. Joan Baily.

As with many patients undergoing the procedure, Jawidzik struggled. Over time, the hypodermic needles became difficult to insert as his arteries hardened. His hands turned black and blue, and he suffered from severe pain and fatigue.

"It's a life-saving process, but it's a very hard thing for people to go through," said his wife of 16 years, Virginia Jawidzik, of the dialysis. "He really didn't do very well. He was tired a lot, we had a lot problems with his blood pressure being too low. It's just not a very pleasant procedure. . It's heartbreaking to see. It's so heartbreaking. It makes you want to cry, it's so devastating for people that are on it."

Mrs. Jawidzik devoted herself to her husband's care, becoming his best advocate and eventually selling her business to focus on his health.

"She would always go to the center, making sure everything's being done right," said Ronald. "She had a business, but because of all the doctors' appointments and hospitals that I was going through, she decided to sell her business."

Upon discovering that her husband was going on dialysis, Mrs. Jawidzik began making calls to Massachusetts General Hospital about the possibility of a kidney transplant for him.

The waiting list, she was told, was three to five years. At this point, however, she knew that she would give up a kidney for her husband, even if it didn't go to him.

"I knew right away, once we knew that he was going on dialysis, I knew that I was going to donate a kidney," she said. "If we were a match, it would go to him but I would still donate a kidney so that they would find a match for him."

Mr. Jawidzik was less certain and asked her to reconsider making such a donation.

"I really didn't want her to give up her kidney, but she insisted," said Mr. Jawidzik. "She didn't even think twice about it. We didn't even talk much about it because I tried to tell her that she shouldn't do it. I'm about to be 70 and she's 56, so I thought, well, how many years do I have left? And she has a long time left and she'll be losing a kidney."

The hospital would not consider doing blood work to determine if she was a match, however, until Mr. Jawidzik was cleared for a transplant. So began a long process of testing and approval, ending with the hospital signing off in November 2012.

The pleasant surprise came next, when Mrs. Jawidzik completed her own blood work: she was a match, and a rare one at that. Of everyone with blood type B, only about 1 percent of people in the United States would have produced a viable match for the kidney transplant.

The successful operation was done on Jan. 17 at Massachusetts General Hospital. Since then, the two have been recovering well.

"We're doing fine," said Ronald. "We made it. My kidneys function properly, and I don't have to be on dialysis."

"I'm just thankful that he doesn't have to go on dialysis anymore and we can move ahead," said Virginia.

For Virginia, however, the road to her husband's recovery is not quite finished. She hopes to donate bone marrow stem cells to aid in the acceptance of the new kidney, for which Ronald would otherwise have to take non-rejection drugs for the rest of his life.

The real joy for the couple after the procedure, however, is the return to a life together outside of waiting rooms and hospital stays.

"I think I might start my business up again," she said. "Right now, there's still a lot of care-taking, but it's very optimistic that things are definitely going to get better, and obviously we'll be able to do more traveling anyways. We're not tied down to the kidney center, which is wonderful."

A U.S. Institute of Medicine study in 2000 found "suggestive evidence" of an association between Agent Orange exposure and Type II diabetes. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs subsequently added it to its list of "presumptive conditions" associated with the chemical, providing disability and health benefits to those exposed to the chemical during military service.

Since the list of presumptive conditions was created in 1991, the Veterans Administration has also listed B cell leukemias, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, Parkinson's disease, ischemic heart disease, prostate cancer, respiratory cancers, multiple myeloma, Hodgkin's disease, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, soft tissue sarcoma, chloracne, porphyria cutanea tarda, peripheral neuropathy as conditions associated with exposure to Agent Orange. It also includes spina bifida in the children of veterans exposed to the defoliant.

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