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East Texas lawyers share kidneys

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 LUFKIN, Texas (AP) — A Lufkin attorney diagnosed with a life-threatening kidney disease received the gift of life from an unlikely source — an opposing Longview attorney he's faced in more than 4,000 cases over the last five years.

During a routine life insurance physical three years ago, lab results revealed that Scott Skelton of Lufkin had iGA nephropathy, an autoimmune disease that causes total kidney failure in less than 25 percent of adults diagnosed.

"It bothered me because I didn't have any knowledge that I had health problems," Skelton said. "I thought I was a healthy 38-year-old."

Around Thanksgiving 2008, it became clear that Skelton would be among the 25 percent of iGA patients needing either a transplant or lifetime dialysis.

"I was obviously scared and concerned, but I wasn't devastated because I knew that people can live full and fruitful lives with dialysis, but it would be a lifestyle change," Scott said. "I wasn't happy, but you go through an adjustment period and then move to the next step."

Patients that endure dialysis before getting a donor kidney have an increased risk of rejection and other complications.

Family and friends got tested in hopes of being the match Skelton needed for a live donation. In live donation one kidney is taken from the donor and placed in the recipient. Live donation has a 90 percent success rate while taking an organ from a deceased donor has an 80 percent success rate, according to information taken from the Kidney Foundation's Web site.

An attorney with Keith Langston's Longview firm found out that Skelton needed a transplant. Skelton and Langston had been friends and colleagues for years, but he did not know that Skelton's kidneys were failing.

"Keith called me one day and said 'I hear you need a kidney. I want to donate one,'" Skelton said. "I never dreamed that he would be the one to offer me a kidney. It just goes to show that it pays to make friends in all walks of life."

Although his kidneys had only 8 percent function on the day of the transplant, Scott managed to avoid dialysis.

"I wanted to give Scott and my donated organ the best chance possible and that meant acting quickly to keep him off of dialysis," Langston said. "He wouldn't have made it another two weeks."

After a whirlwind of tests, on Feb. 12, Langston gave Skelton the gift of life in the same Dallas hospital where Skelton was born. Skelton and Langston each spent around two hours on the operating table.

"I don't think many people realize this, but the donor surgery is done laprascopically now with the exception of removing the kidney," Langston said. "I have four puncture wounds and a three-inch incision line."

Skelton woke in recovery room feeling energized and ready to focus on getting his life back.

"My recovery has been remarkable," Skelton said. "Just two days post-op my labs were normal for someone my age and size."

Both men are doing well. Langston returned to work this week and Skelton has been released from the hospital and will be staying in a Dallas apartment for the next few weeks to make his frequent trips to the doctor more manageable. Skelton has even been working on cases.

"Since surgery Keith and I have talked about cases," Skelton said. "We work together every day."

As soon as the men fully recover, they want to work together to become advocates for live donation. Both made the decision long ago to be listed as organ donors, but neither imagined they would be involved with a live donation.

"There are 80,000 people on the kidney donor list and we could wipe that list out through live donation," Langston said. "I want people to know that it only takes five or six days to help someone live a full and happy life."

Skelton said that because he has always been listed as an organ donor, he is comfortable with receiving a kidney from Keith.

"I can still be a donor, just not my kidneys," Skelton said. "If you die and you're no longer here on earth, why not give someone the gift of life?"

___

On the Net: http://www.kidney.org

 Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

 

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