Close and grow­ing closer, twin do­nat­ing kid­ney to brother

Walker County Messenger - - Front Page - By Scott Herpst

Like most brothers and sis­ters, Caleb and Brit­tany Hartshorn did their fair share of bick­er­ing as they were grow­ing up, but they also forged a bond that re­mains strong to this day.

“She was our wrestling man­ager when I was in high school and she went ev­ery­where with us,” said Caleb, a 2009 grad­u­ate of LaFayette High School about his younger sis­ter, a 2010 LHS grad. “We even went off to col­lege at West Ge­or­gia to­gether at the same time.”

“And when I de­cided to come home, he came home with me,” Brit­tany said with a laugh.

In a few more days, that bond will get even stronger as Brit­tany will give her older brother a gift un­like any other she’s ever given him be­fore – a kid­ney.

“I’m def­i­nitely ex­cited,” Brit­tany said, “but I’m not re­ally ner­vous.”

Life was mov­ing right along for the sib­lings with Caleb work­ing in the pub­lic safety depart­ment for Hamil­ton Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Dal­ton and Brit­tany work­ing as a para­pro at North LaFayette Ele­men­tary.

But that would change on Au­gust 25, 2017 as Caleb went to see a doc­tor after ex­pe­ri­enc­ing some foot pain that just would not go away.

“They thought I was de­hy­drated, so they wanted me to go to the emer­gency room and get some flu­ids,” he said. “Then they ran some tests and it turned out I was in stage re­nal fail­ure.”

Caleb said the main thing on his mind, once he got the news, was whether or not he would still be able to work and help coach wrestling at his alma mater.

“I let the doc­tor tell ev­ery­body else who was at the hospi­tal,” he re­called. “After that, I just felt de­ter­mined. There wasn’t re­ally any­thing I could do about it other than fight, so I de­cided I might as well just fight as hard as I could. I told the doc­tors that I wanted to start treat­ment im­me­di­ately, so they put the per­ma­cath in my ch­est and I started dial­y­sis the next day.”

Brit­tany, who had ar­rived at the hospi­tal a few min­utes after the rest of the fam­ily was told the news, also wasted no time in of­fer­ing to help. She said it was an in­stan­ta­neous de­ci­sion for her to want to be­come her brother’s liv­ing donor.

“When I walked in (the hospi­tal), ev­ery­body looked a lit­tle up­set,” she said. “I asked what was go­ing on and they told me that he was in stage re­nal fail­ure and he needed a new kid­ney. I told him right then and there that he could have one of mine and that’s re­ally how I de­cided.

“There wasn’t re­ally any time to think about it. He was hurt­ing and he needed it.”

Al­though he ap­pre­ci­ated the ges­ture, Caleb said it still took some con­vinc­ing for him to buy in.

“At first, I didn’t want her to do it,” he ex­plained. “I said no, I’ll be okay. I go to dial­y­sis three days a week, so it wasn’t that big of a deal. I could still go to work and I could still coach wrestling. But she kept on and on about it and ev­ery­one told me how spe­cial it would be to her to do it.

“The hard­est part for me was just not want­ing her to be in any dan­ger or hav­ing her hurt, but the doc­tors and sur­geons said she would be com­pletely fine. My case man­ager was talk­ing to me about it and she had do­nated her fa­ther a kid­ney when she was 19 years old. She’s in her mid-30’s now and has had three kids with ab­so­lutely no com­pli­ca­tions at all, so that made me re­al­ize that (Brit­tany) was go­ing to be okay.”

Of course, there’s more to be­ing a liv­ing kid­ney donor than just of­fer­ing one up. The two later be­gan the cross-match­ing tests at Er­langer in Chat­tanooga and a cou­ple of nervewrack­ing weeks later, they dis­cov­ered that Brit­tany was in­deed a match for her brother.

How­ever, when they later de­cided to move the surg­eries to Emory in At­lanta, they once again had to go through com­pat­i­bil­ity test­ing, just to re­con­firm what the ini­tial tests had showed.

They fi­nally got the news they had been wait­ing for on June 14, 2018 and the surgery was then sched­uled for July 13 in At­lanta.

“When I got the call to sched­ule the surgery, Caleb was walk­ing out of his bed­room, hav­ing just got­ten home from dial­y­sis,” said Brit­tany. “I started jump­ing up and down for joy and wav­ing my arms. We were so ex­cited.”

The sib­lings have had sev­eral vis­its and con­sul­ta­tions at Emory in the past few weeks to get ready. They also said they were in­formed by the doc­tors that Emory had over a 98 per­cent suc­cess rate with kid­ney trans­plants from a liv­ing donor.

“Peo­ple have asked me, ‘are you re­ally go­ing to give your brother a kid­ney?’,” Brit­tany said. “And I’m like, yes. He needs it. Why would I not, es­pe­cially if it’s go­ing to make him feel bet­ter. Plus, I’m go­ing to be fine, so why wouldn’t I do this?

“The doc­tors had to tell us all the ter­ri­ble, hor­ri­ble things that could pos­si­bly hap­pen, but there’s never been any hes­i­ta­tion (on my part). It’s al­ways been ‘yes, I’m go­ing to do this and, no, you can’t talk me out of it.”

Brit­tany also said that her fam­ily has been in­cred­i­bly sup­port­ive.

“They’ve never tried to talk me out of it,” she added. “Mom was con­cerned and told me that I didn’t have to do it, but I told her that I wanted to do it. She’s ex­cited. She’s been call­ing us the Kid­ney Twins, even though she’s al­ready a ner­vous wreck since both her ba­bies will be hav­ing surgery at the ex­act same time. Dad is real quiet, but he’s told me how proud he is of me. They’ve both told me that. They have both been awe­some.

“I’m just ex­cited about it. It’s amaz­ing to think I can ac­tu­ally do some­thing this big. For me, it’s just a kid­ney, but for him to be able to lead a nor­mal life in­stead of hav­ing to do dial­y­sis three days a week, it’s def­i­nitely a bless­ing.”

Brit­tany’s full re­cov­ery time is ap­prox­i­mately four to six weeks, while Caleb said he can ex­pect a six to eight-week re­cov­ery pe­riod for his surgery, with added fol­low-up vis­its at Emory to mon­i­tor their progress, which should be plenty of time for them to de­cide how to cel­e­brate.

“(What she’s do­ing) hasn’t re­ally hit me yet,” he said. “But we’ve al­ways been close and this will just be an­other chap­ter in our story. We may end up get­ting T-shirts or car stick­ers or some­thing. Heck, we may even get match­ing tat­toos.”

Caleb and Brit­tany Hartshorn (Mes­sen­ger photo/Scott Herpst)

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