Paramedic to donate kidney to doctor
By Shavonne Potts
SALISBURY — In fewer than 20 days, Charles Cardwell of Salisbury will undergo surgery and endure weeks of recuperation. On the same day, Jon Hobbs will also undergo surgery and weeks of recuperation.
Charles, who works as a paramedic in Cabarrus County, is donating his kidney to the Concord ER doctor.
“I was at work one day and took a patient in the emergency room and heard that he was sick and was going to need a kidney transplant,” Charles said.
Seven years ago, Jon was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease, a genetic disorder where cysts form on the kidneys, causing them to become enlarged.
Last year Jon noticed he increasingly became tired, which he attributed to work. His disease was progressing and he was experiencing kidney failure.
He made steps to put his name on the national organ donor list, a wait that could take three or more years.
Under normal circumstances, Jon would have had to wait years before receiving a kidney from a deceased donor.
Jon’s wife, DeAnne, a nurse, created a Facebook page, “Share Your Spare — Finding a Kidney for Jon Hobbs.” Charles took a look and signed up.
Following nine weeks of tests to determine if Charles’ kidney was compatible with Jon, doctors confirmed three weeks ago the two were indeed a match.
The match needed to be under 40 years old and with a similar body type and blood type. DeAnne said a person with a similar body type will have a kidney that is comparable in size to her husband’s kidney.
Charles talked to his wife, Crystal, about his plan to donate his kidney.
“She was cool with it. She’s always been very supportive,” Charles said.
Crystal went with Charles to all of his appointments and will be there to care for him while he recuperates.
“It makes you honored to be a part of his life,” Crystal said.
The youngest Cardwells — Alexander, 11, and Ethan, 5, — both just think their dad is cool.
Until now, Charles never knew anyone who needed a kidney but always thought if someone he knew ever did, he would consider donating.
“I don’t want people to think I’m some superman. I’m a friend. I’m giving a gift,” Charles said.
He said it’s not a sacrifice; he’s a friend helping another friend.
“I’m giving him an opportunity to watch his kids grow up,” Charles said.
Jon and DeAnne have three children, Madison, 11, and twins Julia and Will, 5.
Jon said it was a very humbling experience to have Charles offer his kidney.
“It’s very refreshing to do this without compulsion,” he said.
Not only was Jon amazed at Charles’ offer, but so were lots of others who came forward to determine if they were a match, many of them strangers.
“It’s a very surreal, touching moment,” Jon said.
“That’s a lot to ask of anybody,” DeAnne said.
The Hobbses had several candidates who were potential matches and began the testing process. They could at any time back out, she said.
“If they wanted to change their minds, nobody else would know. There was no pressure,” DeAnne said.
The Hobbses were honored that so many people were considering it.
Transplantation will not be a final step for Jon. He will have to take anti-rejection medications for the rest of his life.
Jon’s only major complication post-surgery will be returning to work in the ER, where people come in with all types of germs and infections.
April is National Donate Life Month, and Jon hopes in some way he can bring awareness to people about living organ donation.
So much is heard about being an organ donor in death, “a lot of people are not aware they can donate a kidney and still survive,” Jon said.
Living donation is possible for kidneys, parts of the liver, lung and skin.
People who’ve had gastric bypass and have excess skin are good candidates who can donate their skin to a burn center, Jon said.
The Hobbses and Cardwells have become a big family.
“We all feel very comfortable with each other,” Jon said.
If there was ever anything the Cardwells needed, Jon said his family is there to give it.
Atlanta, here we come
When DeAnne heard Charles say his family was postponing the family spring break trip, the wheels started turning.
She knew the Cardwells were huge baseball fans — especially Atlanta Braves fans. Crystal and Charles coach their son’s baseball teams.
DeAnne made a few phone calls, sent some emails and came up with an all-expenses paid road trip for the four Cardwells to Atlanta.
One of the first calls was to her uncle, Marvin Hudson, an umpire for the Braves, who is part of an organization called Umps Care. The Cardwells are getting VIP treatment at Friday’s game.
The family will stop on the way to the game at Mayfield Dairy Farm for a tour and some sweet treats in Braselton, GA.
Their trip will include a helicopter ride over downtown Atlanta, a day at Zoo Atlanta, World of Coca-Cola and the Georgia Aquarium.
“There is no way this will ever compare to what they are doing. You can’t repay that,” DeAnne said.
The two families and other friends met at Concord Family Restaurant Friday to hear DeAnne present the news over breakfast.
The Cardwells were speechless as the trip itinerary unfolded.
“I’m overwhelmed. I never had a clue,” Charles said.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.
Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD), is passed down through families and is where cysts form on the kidneys causing them to become enlarged.
• The disorder can lead to chronic high blood pressure.
• Surgical removal of one or both kidneys may be required.
• Treatment of end-stage kidney disease may include kidney dialysis or kidney transplantation.
• There is no treatment to prevent cysts from becoming enlarged or from forming.
Source: National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Living donation is when a living person donates an organ, or part of an organ, for transplantation to another person.
Living donation can be from a family member, friend or stranger, which is called nondirected donation.
The most common organ given by a living donor is the kidney, but parts of other organs that include the liver and lung are being transplanted from living donors.
There are more than 100,000 candidates on the U.S. organ transplant waiting list, of those more than 86,000 are waiting for a kidney transplant.
In 2010, there were 129 living kidney donations made in North Carolina whereas 20 years ago there were 59, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.