Kidney, Now! Whitney Pannell’s prospective mother-daughter donor story took a turn

Kidney, Now! Whitney Pannell’s prospective mother-daughter donor story took a turn


Kidney, Now!

Mother-Daughter prospective donor story took an unexpected turn

by Whitney Pannell


Many years ago, my mother suffered an allergic reaction to sulphur drug when she was 11 years old. Her doctor had been treating her flu with sulphur. She was hospitalized for three weeks and suffered from acute nephritis. Her doctor at the time said she would probably be affected by this later in life.

Thankfully, she lived her whole adult life with no kidney issues. Then two years ago, at the age of 73, her kidneys started to break down. She began seeing a nephrologist who monitored her kidneys. We were hopeful that her kidneys wouldn’t get any worse, but over the course of two years, their function decreased to 16 percent capacity.

I guess in my mind I had a hard time realizing that her heath was deteriorating and that her kidneys weren’t going to get better on their own. There were really only two options. Kidney transplant or dialysis. Her doctors referred her to The Transplant team at University of Cincinnati.

We traveled up there and met with their team and were told rather bluntly that she had two years to live unless she found a living kidney donor. In that moment of shock, I looked at my mother and the doctor and I said “I’ll donate my kidney!” I didn’t hesitate for a minute. After all, my mother is my best friend. While we were there they tested my blood to determine if I would be a match. A couple weeks passed, and the nurse from the hospital called and said I was a match. We were thrilled!

There were more tests that needed to be conducted, so we scheduled those and I went back up to Cincinnati for a full day of testing consisting of a CAT scan, EKG, echocardiogram, and numerous blood tests. Never in a million years did I think that my tests would turn out anything but normal. It truly never entered my mind that I wouldn’t pass with flying colors. Well, the tests proved me wrong. They called to tell me they had found a sizable tumor on my liver. To say I was shocked was an understatement. I am not even a drinker. I went through a whole range of emotions from disappointment, to fear.

Whitney picks up 2011 Ace Best of Lex Readers' Poll title

I wanted answers and I wanted answers now!

Thankfully, I have several good friends who are physicians and I was able to have the CAT scan films Fed Ex’d to them the  next day.Thankfully, none of them thought it appeared cancerous, but they felt like I needed to be evaluated by a liver specialist to make sure, and we were referred to one at UK. I immediately liked him; his warm; down to earth approach was a welcome relief from the doc in Cincinnati who bluntly told my mother she’d be dead in two years.

He advised me that he and his team of doctors had evaluated my films and

Whitney's surgery in progress

determined it to be a hepatic adenoma which in layman’s terms is a non cancerous tumor. It was too big to biopsy, and he said the risks associated with not removing it were that it could rupture or could become cancerous over time. After discussing it with my husband and my mother, I decided to go forward with the surgery to remove it. We were most impressed with the team of doctors and nurses at UK, and it’s convenient to have them here in Lexington, because the logistics of me going elsewhere and trying to juggle two children’s schedules would make it too difficult on everyone involved.

Whitney’s surgery was January 5, and the benign tumors were removed. Her mother still needs a Type A, or a Type O, kidney donor.

This article also appears on page 7 of the January 12, 2012 print edition of Ace.



  1. I am still at UK day 7 post op and still in excruciating pain. Apparently kidney surgery is not nearly as painful as liver rescission. Hopefully someone reading this will find it in their heart to donate one kidney.All their medical expenses will be covered. Thank you

  2. Praying for a donor.anyone who Is match will have all their medical bills paid by my mother’s insurance company. My liver surgery was a success just very painful apparently the kidney surgery is not near as painful

  3. It was irresponsible and deceptive for your mother’s doctor to say your mother would die without a living kidney donor.

    The average age of end-stage renal disease onset in the US is 64.4 years old. Her age shouldn’t be a deterrent. However, I suspect the way transplant centers have chosen to allocate their deceased donor organs is.

    I would encourage you to read OPTN’s recent proposed to change kidney allocation. It reveals that many transplant centers have been discarding viable kidneys from deceased donors over the age of 50. The proposed policy would increase the use of these organs by age-matching recipients and donated organs, and ultimately, increasing the total number of transplants conducted every year. Unfortunately, the media (and the transplant centers that benefit from the system’s status quo) created the myth that this change would somehow disadvantage would-be recipients over the age of 50 in favor of younger. Not true, if transplant centers stop throwing away those like-aged kidneys.

    As a living kidney donor (to my sister) and someone who lost their mother when young (I was 17), I appreciate your efforts to find your mother a living donor. However, I’d like you to consider the totality of what you’re asking someone to do.

    According to OPTN, 4.4 living kidney donors die each year in the US within 12 months of surgery.

    20% suffer from complications: hernia, chylous ascites, nerve damage, intestinal blockage, pancreatitis, testicular swelling and sensitivity requiring surgical intervention, adrenal dysfunction, etc.

    20-30% experience depression, anxiety, grief and PTSD. Not a single transplant center offers aftercare or support services.

    There are no national standards of living donor evaluation, selection or treatment, only voluntary guidelines. In 2007, OPTN tried to implement a policy, but it’s members (the transplant centers) soundly rejected the effort. Consequently, every transplant program makes up its own rules and is accountable to no one.

    There is no comprehensive short of long-term data on living donors’ health and well-being. No identifying info was collected on living donors until 1994, leaving the fate of 40 yrs of LDs completely unknown. In 2000, the Sec of Health mandated one year of follow-up on LDs (two years as of 2006) but more than a decade later, 30% are still reported ‘lost’ by one year, with no signs contact was attempted. In 2009, OPTN’s data task force concluded the database to be ‘woefully inadequate’ and ‘useless’ for analysis or research.

    All published studies are single center, rife with small sample sizes, or subject to selection bias. This includes the Segev and/or Ibrahim studies touted as ‘proof’ that living donation is safe.

    Reduced renal function, which living donors have, means a higher risk of hypertension, cardiac disease and death, and kidney disease and death. 300+ LKDs have been wait listed in need of their own kidney transplant since 1994. The vast majority of those in the early stages of kidney disease (GFR<80) will not progress to kidney failure because they'll die of cardiac disease first.

    Ron Herrick, the first living kidney donor, had a stroke in 2002, spent the last years of his life on dialysis, and died following a cardiac procedure in 2010. His older siblings attended his funeral. Interesting that the transplant industry leaves those facts out of their praise of him.

    I wish you well with your recovery and hope for the best for your mother. Take care.

  4. First of all, my prayers are with you & your mother Whitney. I pray that she gets a kidney. And I pray that you heal completely.

    I donated a kidney to a family friend three weeks ago (Jan 9) and we went through the University of Cincinnati. I found my experience to be top-notch. The transplant coordinator, Kristie, was amazing. The doctors were amazing & the nurses were wonderful. I had contacted UK’s transplant dept because my recipient had docs in both places but it took them two weeks to call me back. Kristie called me back immediately & had everything sent to me overnight the next day. I’m so sorry you had a bad experience at UC. Sometimes doctors don’t have the best bedside manner. I didn’t find this to be the case; for me or my recipient.

    God Bless you & your mother. Again, I’ll be praying that she finds her donor & I’m happy to hear that your liver was not cancerous! Take care.