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Years After First Kidney Transplant, Inver Grove Heights Man Faces More Surgery

Ten years ago, Jake Lundell was surprised when doctors told him he needed a kidney transplant. Now, he faces another round of surgery, if he can find a donor.

The first time doctors told Jake Lundell his kidneys were failing, the Inver Grove Heights resident was so shocked and embarrassed that he couldn’t bring himself to tell his parents for two weeks.

Lundell received a kidney transplant early in 2001. But his troubles were far from over. Last November, doctors told Lundell that his transplanted kidney was failing, and he would again need an organ transplant.

This time, Lundell, 38, was prepared for the bad news.

“I saw it coming,” Lundell said earlier this week. “I just said ‘OK, this is the battle, we’re going to go for it and see what happens.”

Complications like those that Lundell faces aren't unusual among transplant patients, according to Janet Anderson, a transplant recipient coordinator at Abbott Northwestern Hospital.

Transplant recipients face a number of potential complications after a procedure. Rejection, the body’s natural response to foreign objects found in its system, can occur as much as ten years after the transplant, which is why even successful kidney transplant patients must take anti-rejection medication for the rest of their lives, Anderson said.

But even successful transplants have a limited lifespan, Anderson said. The average kidney transplant lasts for ten years, although some transplants can last up to 25 years.

In Lundell’s case, his transplanted kidney failed as the result of an allergic reaction coupled with scarring on the kidneys caused by anti-rejection meds he was taking.

Unexpected Failure

Lundell’s trouble began in 2000, when he started feeling tired all the time. To get to the bottom of his chronic fatigue, the 26-year-old visited a doctor, who broke the news to Lundell that his kidneys were failing. At the time, medical specialists had no idea what caused Lundell’s kidneys to cease working.

“I was healthy, I was playing softball three four nights a week,” Lundell said. “All of sudden I couldn’t do that. ‘What did I do?’ was the only thought I had.”

After telling his parents and going on dialysis, Lundell received a kidney transplant from his mother in April 2001. He eventually found out from doctors that his kidney failure was caused by IgA nephropathy, a kidney disorder.

For the next ten years, Lundell lived a relatively normal life: He worked as a forklift operator and maintenance worker, and married his wife Danyell Lundell. Three years ago, they had a son, Parker, who was born on the anniversary of Lundell’s kidney transplant.

But last August, the regular lab tests Lundell receives to monitor his health showed that his transplanted organ was failing.

For the second time in his life, the volunteer firefighter, husband and father of a three-year-old son is looking for a kidney donor.

The Fight Starts Again

Lundell started dialysis again in February after a bout of pneumonia. Now, he dedicates more than 10 hours a week to the procedure, while he and Danyell struggle to balance Lundell’s health issues with the needs of their young family.

“The hardest thing is watching Jake go through this, knowing there is nowhere he'd rather be than at home with Parker, and there really isn't much I can do personally,” Danyell Lundell wrote in an email to Patch. “I remain very optimistic that something will come along but at times I wonder if I'm naive as to how long it could take!”

Dozens of people have stepped forward to find out if they could be potential donors for Lundell, Lundell said. But potential donors have to go through a battery of urine, blood and radiology tests before they can be confirmed as candidates. Bringing a potential donor through the evaluation process can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, Anderson said.

Lundell also has a high antibody count, which further complicates the transplant procedure.

Each time a potential donor is rejected, Lundell said, his hopes come crashing down. Although he says it’s difficult for him to ask potential donors to step forward, Lundell worries he’ll be stuck on dialysis in perpetuity while he waits for a transplant.

Individuals on the national waiting list for a kidney donation face an average wait time of three to five years, according to Hennepin County Medical Center. More than 100,000 people are currently on the waiting list, and 4,000 new patients are added each month, according to statistics released by the National Kidney Foundation. Roughly 4,500 kidney patients died while waiting for a transplant each year.

But the potential reward from a successful transplant is great, Anderson said. Although patients have to take anti-rejection drugs, they are no longer tied to a dialysis machine for hours each week.

"He is such a resilient young man," Anderson said of Lundell. "That's what impresses me about these patients, how resilient they are in just taking life day by day."

 

WANT TO DONATE?

Potential kidney donors can email Jake and Danyell Lundell at lundelljd@gmail.com. For more information on the tests, procedures and challenges potential donors and organ donation recipients face, click here. Potential donors must have an O blood type to donate to Jake, but individuals of any blood type may be able to help through “Paired Donation” programs.

David J Undis July 15, 2011 at 03:47 PM
Your story about Jake Lundell and 2nd Kidney Organ Donation highlighted the tragic shortage of human organs for transplant operations. There is a simple way to put a big dent in the organ shortage – give donated organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs when they die. Giving organs first to organ donors will convince more people to register as organ donors. It will also make the organ allocation system fairer. Everyone who is willing to receive should be willing to give. Anyone who wants to donate their organs to others who have agreed to donate theirs can join LifeSharers. LifeSharers is a non-profit network of organ donors who agree to offer their organs first to other organ donors when they die. Membership is free at www.lifesharers.org or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88. There is no age limit, parents can enroll their minor children, and no one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition. LifeSharers has over 14,680 members as of this writing, including 246 members in Minnesota. Please contact me - Dave Undis, Executive Director of LifeSharers - if your readers would like to learn more about our innovative approach to increasing the number of organ donors. I can arrange interviews with some of our local members if you're interested. My email address is daveundis@lifesharers.org. My phone number is 615-351-8622.
CONNIE DAHMS July 16, 2011 at 03:04 PM
Jake is a fighter he always has been from when he was a little boy! He will win this battle too! He has the right attitude and a lot to live for. He loves his wife & son so much and they have a bright long future awaiting them. I'm in the process at this time seeing if I can donate. I would & will do anything for them! Jake is my nephew but more like a son to me.
livingdonor101 July 19, 2011 at 02:33 PM
"More than 100,000 people are currently on the waiting list, and 4,000 new patients are added each month, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Roughly 4,500 kidney patients died while waiting for a transplant each year." These are duplicitous stats. In 2002, UNOS/OPTN allowed 'inactives' to remain on the kidney waitlist indefinitely. Currently 1/3 of the candidates on the list are 'inactive', meaning they couldn't accept a transplant even if an organ became available. Delmonico's analysis revealed that 52% of deaths on the waitlist are inactive. The active waitlist has been flat since 2007. I sympathize with this family, but it's important not to minimize the risk of living donation. 4.4 living kidney donors die each year in the US within 12 months of surgery. 20% experience physical complications. 20-30% suffer from depression, anxiety, anger, PTSD, financial and other psycho-social issues. There are no national standards for the evaluation, selection, and treatment of living donors. THERE IS NO LONG-TERM DATA ON LIVING DONORS' HEALTH AND WELL-BEING. Nearly 300 LKDs have registered on the wait list in need of their own kidney transplant since 1994. The National Kidney Foundation is a member of OPTN yet they've done nothing to increase protections and considerations for living donors. Their sole mission is to obtain transplants for recipients. Their message is highly skewed as a result. I wish this family well. www.livingdonor101.com
CONNIE DAHMS July 22, 2011 at 12:52 PM
We need to remember that with out someone stepping forward to help there would be more deaths of patients waiting for transplants. Weather it's a kidney, pancreas, heart, lung what ever they need. We need to be willing to take a risk & help our fellow American's. I'm not just doing this because Jason is my nephew I'm doing this because it's the right thing to do. My husband is a transplant recipient recieved a kidney in March 1998 & in August 1998 a pancreas. So Iam talking from expeirence of dealing with transplants. I know what Dany is dealing with as Jason's wife there is alot on her shoulders too. Especially when it comes to making dinner etc... So please consider being a donor, you have a computer check out the different sites out there and get as much information as you can. Yes they do need to start doing more for the donors maybe if we start talking to the transplant teams about this they will get something going for donors. Please consider this option to help someone have a better life then living on dialysis. Also David has a great point to "giving a organ to a donor first". Thank you all for reading this and your prayers.
Danyell Lundell July 27, 2011 at 11:15 PM
I would like to thank those of you who have emailed or responded to this article! Its great to know there actually are self-LESS people out there! For those who think donating an organ is a bad thing...well, for your sake, I hope you or someone you love never needs one...or may your thoughts on this come back to you! :)
Delores Schaffer August 19, 2011 at 06:32 AM
I hope no body would have to go through having their child need any type of transplant. I am a living donor, Jasons mom, and will never regret it. People have asked How? Well my answer has always been, "there has never been any question about giving my son life, let alone being able to give him life twice!". I believe if there is info the donors need it should be available. I think what they are doing now with live donation is awesome. To be able to be apart of the celebration for giving someone a life should be the award. My son did not believe he would ever be able to get married, have children, and be happy when he was informed. I watch him now with his son and wife, and to see him so happy, and such a great father. I also now see the sadness in his eyes wondering if he will be able to see his son grow up, teach him to drive, graduate, get married, be a grandparent himself? Dialysis is not a life, it can be very dangerous. I know that now the transplant teams do alot of testing on the donors, they want to make sure there will not be any complications for them. Believe me I would give my son life for the third time, if they would let me. I would be so happy to take on the dialysis for him, just to see him have the chance to live longer and happy. He has not been the type of person to go out and abuse what he has been given. He knows what being given a second chance of LIFE means.

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