A kid­ney that came from the heart

David and father Ken have a bond few oth­ers share

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL -

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.


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