TV reporter recovering from rare kidney disorder

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Scott Jenkins

Salisbury Post

Local folks have probably noticed that Rowan County’s favorite TV reporter has been off the air recently. David Whisenant, Salisbury native and WBTV anchor and reporter, is recovering from a rare kidney attack.

Now, Whisenant faces a lifetime of treatment and the possibility of losing a kidney.

Whisenant said he first fell ill two days before Christmas. While visiting his wife’s family in Kershaw, S.C., he felt a severe pain in his right side. He was taken by ambulance to a hospital in nearby Camden, S.C.

“I have never felt pain like that before,” he said. “It literally doubled me over.”

A doctor in Camden thought Whisenant might be suffering from a kidney stone. He prescribed pain medication and told Whisenant to check in with his doctor when he returned to Salisbury.

But the pain went away, Whisenant said, and with it the idea of seeing his family doctor.

Whisenant was off Christmas Day but scheduled to anchor the morning and noon newscasts on WBTV the rest of the week. Tuesday went by without incident. Wednesday did not.

Halfway through the morning newscast, the severe pain returned. Whisenant struggled through the remaining hour, then got in his car and headed toward home. As he drove, Whisenant kept repositioning himself, trying to ease the pain, but nothing worked.

“It doesn’t matter what position you’re in,” he said.

He considered stopping at NorthEast Medical Center in Concord, but with his mother hospitalized at Rowan Regional Medical Center, Whisenant said he didn’t want to stretch his family thin.

Whisenant got out of his truck outside the Emergency Department at Rowan Regional and fell to the ground in pain. A police officer helped him inside while a security guard parked his truck.

Still thinking he must have had a kidney stone, doctors gave Whisenant pain medication and performed an MRI. The test found no kidney stone, and that result “opened up a lot of new possibilities,” he said.

Further tests the next day revealed that Whisenant had suffered an aneurysm in a blood vessel in his kidney, but scar tissue on the vessel from a wreck 30 years ago prevented doctors from repairing it.

Doctors also found that a blood clot had formed in Whisenant’s kidney. Doctors told him it was a “pretty rare” renal infarction, essentially an attack in the kidney that more typically happens in the heart or in the brain with a stroke.

Whisenant said he still doesn’t know if the aneurysm or the clot happened first, but he does know that he was in more pain than he’s ever known. He spent four days in the hospital.

Whisenant’s local doctor told him he might have to stay on blood thinners for the rest of his life or have the damaged kidney removed. He’s seeing a specialist at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center next week to find out whether he has other options.

Whisenant said he feels “pretty good right now,” though not at full strength. The best news he has heard so far, he said, is that in a couple of weeks, he should be able to do anything he did before the attacks.

“I was very thankful to God to hear that,” Whisenant said. His biggest fear was that what has happened to him would change “how I would live and do my job.”

And folks will be glad to know that Whisenant is scheduled to be back on the air Monday.

Contact Scott Jenkins at 704-797-4248 or