Castle Pines resident Charlie Green (right) received a new kidney on behalf of his friend Ron Houchens (left). The two had surgery at University of Colorado Hospital on December 1, 2015, where Charlie received a donated kidney from someone in San Diego and Ron donated his kidney to a woman in Atlanta.
By Elean Gersack; photos courtesy of the Green Family
Last October, The Connection shared a heartfelt story about local resident Charlie Green who was in need of a kidney. It is with great joy that we share the news that he got one!
On December 1, 2015, Charlie and his friend Ron Houchens were both prepped for surgery at University of Colorado Hospital. Ron donated his healthy kidney to a woman at Piedmont Transplant Center in Atlanta and Charlie received a kidney from a donor at Scripps Medical Center in San Diego. This was all though the paired exchange program, which matches donors and recipients when the donor is not a match for the person he/she wants to help.
Charlie and Ron met at their mutual church of many years, Christ Episcopal. When Charlie and his wife Lynn spoke to the congregation about Charlie’s need for a kidney, Ron took the information home. “I briefly thought about it – what it might be like; not thinking I might be the one,” he said. Ron’s wife Ellen, who is a nurse suggested that with Ron’s good health he might be a candidate. After thinking about it more seriously, Ron contacted the hospital to learn more. Through a year of testing, he passed each round with flying colors. Although Ron was not a match for Charlie, he still wanted to help.
The next step was finding a donor for Charlie. In November, Charlie was slated for back surgery for sciatica, but in the midst of his pre-op testing, he received a call indicating that a donor had been found. The back surgery was halted and the transplant was scheduled instead. Not long after, Charlie got a disappointing call saying that the kidney was not a match after all. Through some diligent work by his doctor, it was discovered that it was a lab mishap and, in fact, the match was excellent just as originally thought. So, planning got underway for the December 1 surgery.
Fast forward several months and both men are doing excellent. Charlie left the hospital with dialysis behind him and discovered newfound energy. His diet restrictions are gone and he is eating clam chowder, Mexican cuisine, and anything that sounds good. In early April, he and Lynn took an airplane trip (something he has not done in more than four years) to see her sister in New Jersey and to see the sights in New York City. They even took in “Madama Butterfly” at the Metropolitan Opera, which was on Lynn’s bucket list. “We’ve been married a long time and now we’ll be married even longer. It’s opened up our future with our kids and grandkids, “ said Lynn, who smiled when she mentioned that the two celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary on March 19.
Ron, who noted that he had a wonderful experience with a very kind and caring staff, is back to work full time as a remodeling contractor and feels great. “You give and you are given back to. I think about it everyday,” he said. In fact, he has shared his story with many and now a friend’s caregiver is pursuing becoming a donor. “It gives a life story new meaning. There are so many rewards, I can’t even count them,” he added.
Charlie is forever grateful to those who came to his aid. “Ron and Ellen and Lynn and I have become very close friends and we will be for the rest of our lives. Ron’s gift was a lifesaver. I’ll be forever appreciative. The same for my donor. I really appreciate that they sacrificed a part of them for me,” said Charlie.
Charlie and his friend Ron celebrated the New Year with friends at the HOA2 Clubhouse. Ron baked a kidney shaped cake to mark the occasion.
There is no way to know just how many lives were touched that December day, but certainly many and all in a very profound way. At a minimum, three hospitals, four fully-staffed operating rooms, and four families were involved … but likely more. The two from Colorado have reached out to donor/recipient on the two coasts through the hospital coordinator and hope to learn more about those who gave and received and perhaps meet them someday. Ron calls it a “coast-to-coast production.”
The next stop for Charlie and Lynn is a summer trip to Southern California to visit their daughter and then perhaps to “Camp Gone to the Dogs” in Vermont this fall or next year. “It’s a life changer,” said Charlie.
To read the original story about Charlie, visit www.castlepinesconnection.com and search “Charlie.” To learn more about living kidney donation, visit The University of Colorado’s information page at www.uchealth.org/livingkidneydonation.