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On meeting couple, Ryan Cress said, ‘I kept telling myself, don’t cry’

By Susan Shinn
sshinn@salisburypost.com
STATESVILLE ó Ryan and Elizabeth Cress made history when they participated in a paired kidney donation last month at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte.
The other couple was Rodney and Belinda Robinson of Gastonia.
Rodney donated his kidney to Ryan; Belinda received Elizabeth’s.
The Cresses and the Robinsons decided that they wanted to meet, and did so two weeks after their June 17 surgeries.
Meeting Rodney, Ryan says, “was pretty emotional for me. I kept telling myself, don’t cry, don’t cry. When he walked in the door, there was nothing I could do to stop it.”
“I didn’t want to cry,” Belinda says. “It was just so nice to put a face with a name. It was a blessing to meet them. If I could have handpicked someone, I couldn’t have done any better than Elizabeth.”
The four bonded “big time,” Ryan says.
Belinda had a hereditary condition that caused her kidney failure. She’d been on dialysis for 10 months before surgery.
Belinda agrees that having a willing donor does speed up the process of receiving a new kidney.
Unfortunately, her twin sister has the same disease and is on dialysis now.
That’s one reason Ryan and Elizabeth want people to know about paired kidney donation.
“We want to get the word out that this is an option for people,” Elizabeth says.
The procedure was a first for the medical center. Everything went smoothly.
“Each donor had two surgeons and each recipient had one surgeon,” Elizabeth says.
If the donors’ kidney could not be removed laparoscopically, the other surgeon would step in.
The four surgeries were completed in six hours.
Both donated kidneys started to function as soon as they were put in place.
“It was really easy,” Belinda says of the surgery. “It wasn’t anything you couldn’t handle. I was nervous, but Rodney wasn’t. He was ready to go. He didn’t have to have surgery. He chose to do this for me.”
The couple have been married for 19 years and have three children, two boys and a girl, ages 9, 13 and 16.
Belinda says she feels 100 percent better.
“I’ve got so much more energy now,” she says. “I’m really enjoying being home with my kids.”
Belinda is a district manager for Burger King. She’ll go back to work later this summer. Rodney is a deputy chief for the Cramerton Police Department. He’s taking leave to spend time with her.
The kidney that Rodney gave Ryan was placed in the front of Ryan’s body. A crescent-shaped scar runs from just above his belly-button to down below it.
It’s just under his skin, and if he places his right hand there, he can feel it.
“I’m intrigued by it,” he says. “It feels like a big, rubber bouncy ball. It’s firm. You would expect an organ to be squishy.
“It’s an odd feeling to know you’ve got a kidney in your stomach.”
But, he adds, it’s a good feeling.

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