NFT Patient Chris Townsend Receives Fresh Start

June 9, 2010

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(l-r) Cecilia Huffman, Nancy Stone and Chris Townsend

Cecilia Huffman seemed to know long ago that she would be donating one of her kidneys to her brother.

When Chris Townsend received his first kidney transplant in 1995 at the age of 21, doctors advised him that a kidney donated from a sibling would be more likely to last longer and would have a much lower chance of rejection.

At that time, however, Townsend’s two sisters, Cecilia and Billie Jo, and his brother, David, were all of an age or at a stage in life where it was against medical advice to donate; his sisters were entering prime child-bearing years, and David was still an adolescent.

Huffman, who was about 20 years old at the time of her brother’s first transplant, said, “In 1995, preparing for his first transplant, I knew then that one day I more than likely would have to give him a kidney.”

That first kidney lasted Townsend for about 11 years until it failed. An intense search for another kidney ensued. By that time, Huffman was ready.

“I don’t have any doubts, any concerns; I wanted to do it,” she recalled thinking at the time.

The operation was in September 2008. Since then, Huffman has had no regrets about donating her kidney.

“Most days, I don’t even think about it. I’m just glad he is here and healthy. I’d do it all over again.”

Huffman said being an organ donor and saving someone’s life is an amazing opportunity. “I wish more people would look into organ donation and how it benefits others,” she added.

Two years later

“I feel great,” Chris Townsend says as he reflects on his state of health almost two years after his second kidney transplant.

Townsend, now 36, had a degenerative form of kidney disease known as Alport Syndrome. His story was first told in a February 2008 article in The Garner Citizen.

Summarizing his physical limitations since the second transplant, Townsend said he had “none whatsoever.” Though he takes several anti-rejection medicines, also known as immunosuppressants, he said he has not noticed any side effects.

“They have done away with most of the side effects with the better medicines now,” he said.

Looking back on the medical care he received, Townsend is effusive with praise. He describes his nephrologist, Dr. Stephen Smith, at Duke University Medical Center as “the best doctor I have every seen in my life.”

Financial need met

During the process of preparing for a second transplant, Townsend was faced with a great challenge in affording the transplant and the maintenance medications that would follow.

Members of his church, St. Andrews United Methodist Church in Garner, had rallied around him and, through a nonprofit organization, the National Foundation for Transplants, raised enough money to secure the transplant operation; however, funding the lifetime of maintenance medications that would be required remained a challenge.

In the following months, Townsend was able to acquire a medical insurance policy that now pays for a substantial portion of his ongoing medication bills. He does not anticipate a need for future fundraising.

Townsend is beginning anew with a dream he has had for a long time — to start a business of his own. He has always enjoyed baking. Now, he has a bakery business with his mother, Nancy Stone, and Huffman called Nancy Jo’s Homemade Bakery. The business is located in Warsaw and has a local hub at the Farmers Market at the N.C. State Fairgrounds.

After his second transplant, Townsend expressed his feeling that this second transplant might last the rest of his life.

Reflecting on the possibility of a lifetime with his sister’s kidney, he said, “It is very possible, and in my gut — no pun intended — I feel like it will last a very long time.”