Man with failing kidney hopes he's still lucky

Jun. 04, 2013 @ 07:20 PM

For the second time in his life, David Greer needs a new kidney.

But getting one is only the second-best outcome he hopes for.

Topping it would be more people becoming organ donors so that other people in need of transplants have the kind of chances he has gained since he was 17 years old, when he had his first kidney transplant.

Greer suffers from Alport syndrome, a rare genetic condition that destroys the part of the kidneys that filters waste from the blood. It also damages vision and hearing. By the time he was 17, he already had been on dialysis for a year and a half.

Without that kidney from someone who died in a car wreck, Greer, 46, might not have lived long enough to meet his wife, Shawnette, or spend time with his son, or see a grandchild.

“I always wondered if I was going to live long enough to see my son grow up,” Greer said.

Shawnette Greer said people who are squeamish about the idea of being a donor need to think about the difference they can make in another person’s life.

“If this family could see what life they gave us,” she said of her husband’s donor, “and the chance to raise a family – it’s been an awesome experience.”

David Greer knows he has been lucky so far – his donated kidney has lasted nearly 30 years. Transplanted kidneys sometimes can last a lifetime, but typically only 10-12 years, or less. Perhaps his lasted so long because the donated kidney happened to be a perfect match.

“They told me the only way I could have a better match is if I had a twin,” he said.

He hopes he’s lucky enough to find a second donor.

He’s on the waiting list, but there are about 80,000 people waiting and only about 10,000 donations a year, so waits can last several years. Several of his Army-veteran son’s friends have volunteered to be tested to see if they match.

The Greers will be the focus of a chicken-and-barbecue fundraiser at the Kings Creek Ruritan Club this Saturday at 11 a.m. The medical bills related to David Greer’s failing kidney already are mounting, and there’s no telling what will come by the time a donor is found.

In the meantime, he and Shawnette try to emphasize the positives.

“You go through the ups and downs in life,” Shawnette Greer said, “and there’s always someone worse off than we are.”