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By John Miner, Free Press Reporter
Copyright 2009 The London Free Press
March 3, 2009
After enduring the pain and anguish of three failed transplants, 20 years on dialysis, 22 major surgical procedures and hospitalized more than 100 times, Pat Davis decided three years ago he'd had enough. "I had fought the good fight and I started to think about losing on my terms. That meant stopping dialysis and letting nature takes its course," he said yesterday.
Davis talked about dying with his doctors, nurses and pastor, who understood. His wife didn't.
It was his wife Donna's suggestion he go for a fourth kidney transplant with her as the donor, the Wallaceburg man said at a news conference announcing a new $1.1-million transplant research chair at the University of Western Ontario.
The new research will partly focus on how to extend the life of transplanted kidneys, which last an average 15 years but sometimes have to be replaced much earlier. Kidneys filter waste from the blood. Without them, patients must have their blood mechanically cleansed through dialysis.
Already told another transplant was out of the question because his immune system was likely to reject it, Davis and his wife had an uphill battle convincing Dr. Anthony Jevnikar, medical director of kidney transplantation at the London Health Sciences Centre, to go ahead.
"I finally told him there were only three options open to me if he did the transplant -- I could live, I could die, or I could end up back on dialysis.
"Two of those options were fine with me, because I knew I was never going back on dialysis," said Davis.
Jevnikar told Davis he was going to throw pretty much everything at him but the kitchen sink, and that too, if necessary, to prepare his body for the transplant. "He was as good as his word," said Davis.
The aggressive treatment, made possible by research advances, was aimed at allowing Davis's immune system to accept the new kidney. On Nov. 7, 2007, Donna and Pat Davis were wheeled into adjacent operating rooms at University Hospital where Dr. Patrick Luke performed the transplant surgery.
Eighteen months after the surgery that gave him his wife's kidney, Davis, the executive assistant to Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MP Bev Shipley, said life has improved dramatically. "I am as well and as healthy as any other prone-to- overindulgent 52-year-old that I know. Life for me is incredible and far beyond what we ever expected," he said.
Jevnikar [photo at right], who was named the Canadian Institutes of Health Research clinical research chair in transplantation, said patients such as Davis drive his research team.
"There are a lot of patients like Mr. Davis who need transplants and have not been able to get transplants," he said. The money from CIHR and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals will mean transplant research efforts will be increased at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at Western with more researchers hired.
The scientists will focus on why organs and tissues are damaged during transplantation, and how the life of the transplanted organs can be extended, Jevnikar said."I will work hard still. Our team will work hard, but when I get to work, there will be a bigger team," he said.