When 29-year-old Cameron Mullis of Jacksonville, Florida, was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy and told he’d need a kidney transplant, he was facing the likelihood of kidney dialysis and several years of waiting for a suitable donor. Little did he realize, his potential donor was living under the same roof as him.
IgA nephropathy, also known as Berger's disease, is a kidney disease that occurs when an antibody called immunoglobulin A, or IgA, lodges in your kidneys. This results in local inflammation that, over time, may hamper your kidneys' ability to filter waste, excess water and electrolytes from your blood. Kidney damage may be indicated by blood and protein in the urine, high blood pressure and swollen feet. There currently is no cure for this disease outside of a kidney transplant.
After his initial diagnosis in September 2014, Cameron came to Mayo Clinic's Florida campus for an evaluation for a kidney transplant. He was listed for a kidney in May 2015. The median wait time is 3.6 years for a donor kidney, given the national demand for donated organs, especially kidneys. Currently, more than 101,000 patients are listed nationally for a donor kidney, while last year, only about 17,000 kidney transplants were done in the U.S.
Cameron and his fiancée, Savannah, were planning to be married on June 12, 2015, and the couple wondered whether their plans would be thwarted due to the uncertainty of Cameron’s health. Savannah works at Mayo Clinic and was a scheduler for the Transplant Department for three years, so she was very familiar with the transplant evaluation and listing process.
“After a few weeks of learning Cameron’s diagnosis, I just realized I needed to be strong for him and try to do everything I could to live a normal life without making every day solely about his condition,” Savannah says. “I knew it could be a long wait for him, so we tried to make the best of the situation in the meantime.”
“My transplant experience has exceeded my expectations, and I feel amazing. I am ready to be productive and live a normal active life again.” - Cameron Mullis
A registered organ donor since age 16, Savannah had her blood tested to see if by some chance she would be a potential match. When Savannah was contacted by his transplant coordinator and told she was, in fact, a potential match for her husband, she says the weight of the world lifted from her shoulders.
“Prior to that call, I felt like I was going to have to put our dreams of a big family, travel and a normal life on hold to take care of my husband,“ Savannah says. “But when I got the call that I was a match, I knew everything would be OK.”
The living donor transplant between husband and wife occurred at Mayo Clinic on Sept. 8, 2015. The recovery process wasn’t easy at first, but today, both Savannah and Cameron are doing well just months after their surgeries and have resumed their lives as normally as possible.
“My transplant experience has exceeded my expectations, and I feel amazing,” says Cameron. “I am ready to be productive and live a normal active life again.”
Thanks to living organ donation and the gift from his wife, who was extremely fortunate to be a suitable match, Cameron’s wait for a kidney was only four months when it could have been several years. As a result, he was able to avoid going on dialysis altogether.
“With 3,000 new patients per month listed nationally awaiting a new kidney, there are never enough deceased donor organs available to meet the demand,” says Martin Mai, M.D., a transplant nephrologist at Mayo Clinic's Florida campus. “Living organ donation helps fill that gap in available kidneys, and each living donor makes a huge impact in the quality and longevity of life for the recipient.”
For Cameron and Savannah Mullis, there is no doubt they are strongly supportive of everyone registering to become an organ donor.
“I can say firsthand that it is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done,” Savannah says.