A kidney that came from the heart
David and father Ken have a bond few others share
Did you ever have to call your dad to give your stalled car a boost with jumper cables? And you knew he’d come through for you?
Well, this is not like that. With the jump-starts, dad got to keep all his batteries and take the cables back. But the coming-through part? Oh yeah. Just like that, but writ large.
Twenty years ago David Angus and his father Ken each had major surgery scheduled on the same day, Oct. 31 1997, at the same time, same hospital — St. Joseph’s in Hamilton.
They even separately cracked the same joke in the operating rooms. “I hope you’re really a doctor and not just dressed up for Halloween,” David remembers.
But the coincidences were no accident. The surgeons needed David and Ken close together. Once they had both their “hoods” open, so to speak, they had to pull Ken’s kidney over to David’s abdomen.
They were close together. They’ve always been close. You should see them now. David has one of Ken’s kidneys, and they have each other’s backs — and hearts.
If it hadn’t been dad Ken, brother Jeff was ready to step up with a kidney transplant for David, 19 at the time. (David’s mother, now deceased, had MS at the time and so could not be a candidate.) Jeff was a four-out-of-six match, but Ken nosed him out at five out of six.
David, in good health since the transplant, is spending the summer ramping up plans for a big fundraiser/concert in October, to mark the 20th anniversary of that fateful day.
He’s calling it Guitar Strings and Kidney Things 20th Transplanti-versary Concert. Not the “exact” anniversary but close — Oct. 28 at the Collective Arts Brewery (a great venue, by the way) in Hamilton, 207 Burlington St. East.
“I can remember it as if it happened yesterday,” says David, and Ken nods in agreement.
“Apparently, as soon as they installed the kidney I started urinating everywhere and they (the doctors) knew it was working. But there were some hiccups before the triumph.”
After an earlier operation, to remove David’s inoperative kidneys a couple of months in advance of the transplant, the seal didn’t hold and there was internal bleeding. It was corrected but the spectre of it preyed on David and at 10 p.m. the night before the transplant he called his dad, in great anxiety.
“I don’t know,” says Ken, in retrospect, “but I had this strong feeling of calmness that it would all be OK.” And it was. A father knows. He talked David through it.
“It is pretty awesome,” says Ken, 71, of giving a kidney to his son. “You lead your normal day-to-day life and you never put a price on it until you get to something like this. Life is a fragile thing.”
Indeed it is a bond few others have, and the roots of it are as deep as David’s infancy.
At six months old, he was taken to the hospital with high fever. Doctors diagnosed it quickly — urinary backflow; his kidneys had shut down. He was raced to Sick Kids in Toronto. Over the years they managed the condition with care and medication — he led a normal life — but they always knew he’d need a transplant.
The benefit on Oct. 28, David says, is meant to provide hope for those like him with kidney disease. The money goes to the Kidney Foundation of Canada.
“We are so thankful,” says David, supervisor of counselling with the Alzheimer’s Society, Hamilton/Halton, “We’ve had the best of the best.”
The theme of the benefit derives from David’s love of music.
“I have an affinity for it, I play for my own pleasure but you’re not going to see me on a bar stool. I love to listen.”
And when he was waiting for his transplant and recovering from it, he listened often to a mix tape, especially three songs by The Lowest of the Low, a Toronto band. Those songs helped get him through.
Guess who’s going to highlight the lineup on Oct. 28? The Lowest of the Low.
It promises to be a great night. David is still seeking sponsors and donors. Look to these pages for more as the concert approaches.
David Angus, 39, and dad Ken, 71. The benefit on Oct. 28, David says, is meant to provide hope for those like him with kidney disease.