Man gets new kidney, looks forward to recovery

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 13, 2011

By Mark Wineka
CHARLOTTE — David Zalinsky received a call Sunday night that a kidney might be available for him.
By 2;30 p.m. Monday, a transplant team at Carolinas Medical Center successfully gave him a right kidney that’s functioning and could mean Zalinsky will be off dialysis for the first time since April 2008.
“I can’t believe how good I feel,” Zalinsky said early this afternoon after being moved from intensive care to a regular room.
Zalinsky, who lives off Stokes Ferry Road in Rowan County, lost his second kidney last Christmas and has been on a transplant list since then.
“He’s awake and alert and hasn’t needed too much pain medication,” his wife, Kelly, said. “The doctors are real pleased with the kidney.”
The Zalinskys learned that David’s new kidney came from a 31-year-old organ donor.
“We thank everyone for their prayers and support,” Kelly said. “We also remember the family who lost someone in order to make it possible for David to hopefully lead a better life.”
Zalinsky plans to be walking the halls Wednesday and possibly being home by Friday at the earliest.
When one of David’s doctors told Kelly Zalinsky Monday afternoon how “everything went fantastic” and that her husband had an excellent, working kidney, Kelly hugged him.
“The doctor said, ‘This is the part I love about my job,’ ” Kelly recalled.
David Zalinsky is 46 and was a longtime officer at Piedmont Correctional Center before crushing an ankle in a training accident, making him unable to keep his state certification. He later worked at Food Lion’s corporate offices before his kidneys began shutting down.
With his new kidney, he plans to look for work when his return visits to the medical center are curtailed and he’s back to full strength. The anti-rejection medications he’s taking compromise his immune system a bit, so he has to be careful.
The couple have two daughters: Erin, who just entered middle school; and Brittany, who is both a newlywed and recent graduate of East Rowan High School.
During long hours on dialysis in recent years, Zalinsky honed his impressive knitting skills, producing hats, sweaters, shawls, afghans, wash cloths, dish towels and ponchos. Many of the items went to family and friends as gifts.
His regimen on dialysis required a significant window of time each day, and the treatment itself lasted upwards of four hours.
When he woke up from Monday’s surgery and saw his wife for the first time, he said, “I love you.”
Then he said something else that was music to Kelly’s ears: “I feel like I have to pee.”
“I said, ‘It’s OK, honey, you can pee now,’ ” Kelly Zalinsky said. “… He just can’t believe it’s finally here. He’s doing really well. He’s really excited.”
Brittany was able to visit him in intensive care Monday, but Erin’s school schedule and the late visiting hours didn’t mesh well for her, so she was only able to speak with her father Monday by telephone.
Meanwhile, young Erin made a dinner that was waiting for her mother when she returned home Monday night from the hospital.
Told some 15 years ago he had kidney disease and would probably lose his increasingly low-functioning kidneys in two to five years, David Zalinsky beat the odds until losing one kidney to cancer on Dec. 3, 2008.
By mid June 2009, he was trained and doing his own dialysis at home.
He lost his other kidney just days before Christmas last year, but it proved not to be cancerous, which made him eligible for a transplant.
The Zalinskys came close to having a kidney donor in June, but David’s lab work showed that he had fluid on his lung, and he couldn’t accept it.
Kelly Zalinsky said her husband remained positive and told her “there’s one out there that’s better.”
The only other setback David had since last December’s operation was the need to have a clogged fistula cleaned out in late August, so his dialysis would work better.
“We’re excited, we’re happy,” Kelly Zalinsky said today. “We’re just waiting to get him home.”
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.