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The Lasting Gift of Donation

Longtime Friend Surprises The Other 
With His Kidney Transplant Eligibility

Story by Alley L. Biniarz

Jarrett Pike didn’t donate his kidney to be recognized as a hero, but he’s been seen as one all the same. When his close friend Kyle Damphouse found out that he had end stage kidney disease (IgA nephropathy), Jarrett didn’t hesitate before testing his blood type to find out whether he was a match. 

“Kyle isn’t the type of guy to put anyone out. Even when he knew he needed the transplant he tried finding other avenues so none of his friends would have to donate,” Jarrett says, explaining how since the disease is unfortunately hereditary, none of Kyle’s family members were able to donate.

After being diagnosed in February, Kyle went through six cyclophosphamide treatments (chemotherapy) which didn’t stop the disease. “My thought process after diagnosis was what is the next move and how can I stay alive,” Kyle adds. “The next step was PD dialysis, which I had surgery for in August to install a PD catheter. It was quite the journey to finally start feeling better in October, but I needed to start dialysis to get onto the list for a transplant.”

Kyle had no idea that Jarrett was already in the process of becoming a blood match for him, which he found out over dinner one night. “I never asked…I couldn’t ever ask for something like this. He just stepped up and did it.” He says that Jarrett was completely selfless throughout the entire situation and stood behind him through all of the testing once he met with the transplant team in September. 

“It was easier than I thought to be a donor,” Jarret adds. “Once I found out that I was a match, all I had to do was call the University of London Hospital and they set up all of the follow-up appointments.” Jarrett says they had to make sure to check him for any signs of heart disease, cancer, or anything else that would have affected his ability to donate. Where the entire process normally takes six months up to a year to complete, Jarrett was motivated to fast tract the program and was able to get everything done within a three-month timespan. “I knew the longer we waited, the longer Kyle would have to be on dialysis rather than getting it done quickly and having better long-term success with the surgery.” 

Above: Jarrett (left) and Kyle (right) in the University of London hospital post-transplant.

When Jarrett found out that there was an opening for surgery earlier than anticipated, he said he knew it was meant to be. He found out the day of Kyle’s wife Nicole’s birthday—two days before Kyle’s birthday—and decided to surprise them with the news that night. 

“We had my in-laws over for my spouse’s birthday and Jerry and his wife Natalie showed up with champagne. Nicole and I thought it was for her birthday but then Jerry told me that I had to start quarantine the next day because I was going to be getting his kidney in two weeks.”

Both say that the night was filled with emotion, but the next day they had to start planning for surgery on November 17. “Anything can happen in your life at any time. You just have to do the process; you can always find a way to make it work,” Jarrett says, having also been expecting a baby in mid-December. “Having a pregnant wife and preparing for a baby is life changing, so is the kidney donation process, and both were challenging to juggle, but we did it.” 

Jarrett says the process went as seamlessly as the two could have hoped. Through the living kidney donation program at the University of London Hospital, there were two people designated to Jarrett to make sure he was prepared beforehand but also taken care of well into the recovery process. He says the hardest part has been sitting and allowing his body to recover, but otherwise the only change to his lifestyle is having to drink more water. 

Jarrett (left) and Kyle (right) sitting outside holding up matching sweaters that say “Kidney Buddies for Life”.

“Of course, when you’re going through the mindset of having surgery, there’s a little spot in the back of your head that says, this could change your life, but the gratification after the fact is rewarding and helps with the emotions. I knew this would essentially give Kyle a better life for at least 18-20 years. He can have a normal aspect of life again.”

Kyle says that everything is a lot easier for him now. “I no longer need to do eight hours of dialysis a night, I just need to take medications twice a day and I am free to go in life like I did before. The gift of life is hard to give, and Jarrett had no problem doing it. I can’t thank him enough, as well as his wife Natalie and my wife Nicole for being there the whole time for support. It’s been a tough year, but my family and friends have really been there.” 

Many have reached out to Jarrett about his donation, and he says the most gratifying part has been the ability to spread awareness on the gift of donation. “I had no clue going into the process that, with my universal blood type, I could help most individuals. More people should consider checking to see how eligible they are to donate. But it’s important to remember that it’s something that you do and get nothing in return other than the satisfaction of saving someone’s life.” 

With the demand for his blood type, Jarrett says he plans to continue donating blood in the future to continue helping others. 

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