On Friday, Sandy Wurth, of Ottawa, will donate a kidney to her brother, Mike Hulbert. (Photo submitted)
On Friday, Sandy Wurth, of Ottawa, will donate a kidney to her brother, Mike Hulbert. (Photo submitted)

This story is the first in a three-part series about organ donations, and the importance of being an organ donor. Although many people in the county are affected by organ donations, in this story, I chose to look at kidney donations; one procedure that occurred 40 years ago, and one that will occur this week. According to Living Donors Online, more than 80,000 people are waiting for kidney transplants. There are approximately 6,000 living kidney donors each year. The procedure has become a routine one, and most times is covered by insurance.

PUTNAM COUNTY - Your sibling is your first friend and playmate. It is one of the longest relationships of your life, and can give you as much pleasure as grief. Your sibling may also be the one who can save your life.

Gerald Coburn, who lived in Pandora, and his brother, Burt, who lived in Warren, Ohio, had always been close. When both of Bert's kidneys were destroyed by acute nephritis in 1974, Gerald immediately stepped forward to donate one of his kidneys.

When Gerald found out Bert needed a transplant, according to Bert, "He said, 'It will be me.'"

Bert was already a patient at the Cleveland Clinic. His kidneys had been removed, and he had been on dialysis for 30 days. He needed a kidney to save his life. The first deceased-donor kidney transplant had been performed at Cleveland Clinic in 1963. Living donor kidney transplants were a relatively new procedure.

"At the time, we had the best genetic match, which determines how well the kidney would be received," Bert explained. "Genetically, we were almost twins, although we were a year apart."

Gerald underwent rigorous physical training to prepare for his donation. The two men met at the hospital. At age 34, Bert was one of the oldest kidney recipients.

"We had a very good attitude about the procedure," Bert described. "I don't want anyone to have to go through it, but we had a great experience."

When the two returned home, they shared a bottle of wine that night - doctor's orders. Their dismissal from the hospital was one of the quickest on record.

Bert has lived 40 years with one kidney, and has had absolutely no problems. The only medication he takes is five mg of prednisone per day. At age 72, he works full-time for Stanbury Uniforms; two weeks ago, he was in China to purchase fabric.

Cleveland Clinic still tracks his progress. Coburn undergoes a physical examination every six months from the same doctor he has seen for 40 years. His transplant has been used as a classroom example.

"I want people to know, if you're healthy, there's nothing to fear about giving up a kidney," Bert concluded.

On Friday, Sandy Wurth, of Ottawa, will donate a kidney to her brother, Mike Hulbert, who resides in Findlay.

Mike had been seeing a doctor for kidney issues since 2005. It was his family doctor who discovered Mike had hypertension, which had previously been undetected. That disease lead to proteinuria, and eventually, to end-stage renal disease. Mike has been on dialysis since May. He goes three times a week, four hours each time. He has continued to work full-time during this period. His only chance to resume a normal life was to get a kidney transplant.

Mike was sent to The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, to determine if he would qualify for a kidney transplant. After providing an extensive medical history and thorough medical testing, he was put on the donor list. He was told a living kidney donor would be the best option, as the success rate of acceptance is higher. However, because he has a less common blood type, Mike learned it would be two to three years before he would be matched with a donor.

It was then that Sandy offered to be tested to see if she was a match. She never hesitated in her decision.

"I said, 'Of course I'll get tested. I'm his only sibling,'" she related.

Sandy completed the testing over the summer, both at OSU and at home. Sandy and Mike were found to be compatible for a transplant.

"There was no doubt in my mind that I would be the kidney donor to my little brother. If I can do anything to help someone, I'll do it," she declared.

The siblings' mother, Cathie Hulbert, was not quite as convinced that Sandy should be Mike's donor.

"I wondered if it would be better to find someone else, someone who was not related," she commented. "Now, both my children will be at risk. I asked that Sandy have more testing than normal, just to make sure."

"But Sandy never doubted," Cathie said proudly of her daughter.

Sandy shrugged her shoulders. "Maybe this was truly meant to be, for me to be matched," she said easily.

The Wurth-Hulbert family has a positive attitude toward the surgeries, and are relying on their faith and the support of family and friends. "Sometimes, it's been rough," Mike described, "but knowing that I'm getting a kidney on Friday, and it'll all be over then. I thank my sister every day. God bless her!" He concluded, "I can't wait 'til it's all said and done. It can't come quick enough."
story created on Monday 11/11/2013 at 11:48:39 am by Anne Coburn-Griffis