July 28, 2015

Patient Celebrates 30 Years After Loma Linda Kidney Transplant

, with reporting by LLUMC

A kidney transplant patient has celebrated 30 years of life with words of praise for God and the doctor who operated on her in 1985 at the Seventh-day Adventist Church-owned Loma Linda University Medical Center.

Karen Gwaltney, 58, met with the doctor, Roger Hadley, during an emotional reunion at the Loma Linda University Transplantation Institute in Loma Linda, California.

“God has been with me through this journey,” Gwaltney said. “Without having God in my life I don’t know where I would be.”

Gwaltney had been on the waiting list for a kidney for nearly a year when she received the telephone call that a donor had been found. She received her kidney from a donor who had not survived a motorcycle accident. The life-saving operation took place on July 4, 1985.

A kidney from a deceased donor usually functions eight to 12 years, according to Loma Linda University Medical Center. Gwaltney significantly beat those odds by not experiencing any complications with her transplanted kidney.

Hadley, now the dean of the LLU School of Medicine, was excited to reconnect with his former patient.

“As surgeons, we do surgeries all the time, but we aren’t always fortunate enough to know what happens to our patients as time goes on,” he said at the reunion, which was held at a kidney support-group meeting at the institute.

Jennifer Nakamura, a clinical social worker for LLU’s kidney transplant team, arranged the small celebration. Pre- and post transplant patients meet once a month for the kidney support group, which started in the 1980s. They share their experiences, ask questions, and get educated by physicians and staff.

Gwaltney, a resident of Cherry Valley, California, told a kidney support group at the institute how she never met the family of her donor, but was able to send them a letter expressing her gratitude.

Gwaltney showed Hadley a scrapbook that documented her life with photos of family and friends. She also had photos of Hadley and her transplant team, news clippings, and personal memorabilia of her life since her transplant.

Hadley said he was elated to see his former patient happy and healthy after such a long time. Before departing, he took a selfie with Gwaltney and posted it on his Instagram account with her permission.

“This has been a highlight of the year for me,” he told the kidney support group. “Thank you.”