Waiting on a miracle


Mike Gar­vey’s med­ic­al troubles star­ted in 1999, when a life-threat­en­ing auto-im­mune dis­ease landed him in Naz­areth Hos­pit­al for a three-month stay.

The dis­ease ex­posed his nerves and greatly af­fected his hands, legs and feet, and he had to give up his job as an op­ti­cian.

Five years later, in 2004, he traveled to the Uni­versity of Miami’s Jack­son Me­mori­al Hos­pit­al for a rare and risky five-or­gan trans­plant. Dr. An­dreas Tza­kis was the lead sur­geon dur­ing the 24-hour pro­ced­ure, re­pla­cing the liv­er, spleen, pan­creas, small in­test­ine and a por­tion of the stom­ach.

Two weeks later, while re­cu­per­at­ing, Gar­vey de­veloped sepsis, a po­ten­tially deadly med­ic­al con­di­tion known in lay­man’s terms as “blood pois­on­ing.”

Fol­low­ing a lengthy re­cov­ery, Gar­vey en­joyed about five years of re­l­at­ively good health. He was a lunch par­ent at St. Al­bert the Great Ele­ment­ary School and drove his son Mi­chael to school and sports prac­tices.

However, by the Christ­mas sea­son of 2010, Gar­vey was suf­fer­ing head­aches and oth­er ail­ments. A few months later, he star­ted un­der­go­ing kid­ney dia­lys­is treat­ments and was told he’d need a trans­plant.

Look­ing back, the 54-year-old Gar­vey said the sepsis dam­aged his kid­neys, put­ting him on dia­lys­is for two months. The de­teri­or­a­tion has con­tin­ued.

“In the last eight years, the med­ic­a­tion I have taken has taken a toll on the kid­neys,” he said.

Dr. Tza­kis has re­com­men­ded that the trans­plant take place at Jack­son Me­mori­al Hos­pit­al, and Gar­vey is on a wait­ing list in Flor­ida for a ca­da­ver kid­ney.

“Be­ing on the kid­ney trans­plant list can be an ex­cru­ci­at­ingly long wait,” he said.

When Gar­vey needed the five-or­gan trans­plant, the wait was nine months long. The or­gans came from a ca­da­ver.

Gar­vey, who lives on Glenn Street in Bustleton, be­lieves he might have to wait from 2½ to 5 years for a ca­da­ver kid­ney.

Of course, the trans­plant could take place a lot soon­er if a live donor would agree to the pro­ced­ure. There would also be a less­er risk of re­jec­tion.

“I want to get it over and done with as soon as pos­sible,” Gar­vey said.

Gar­vey has O pos­it­ive blood. To be a com­pat­ible donor, an in­di­vidu­al must be 18 to 65 years old, have O pos­it­ive or O neg­at­ive blood and not be on blood pres­sure med­ic­a­tion.

Cas­sie Gar­vey, Mike’s wife, has high blood pres­sure. Mi­chael Gar­vey, a 14-year-old fresh­man at Fath­er Judge High School, is too young.

“A live donor would be much bet­ter than hav­ing a ca­da­ver,” Cas­sie Gar­vey said.

Any live donor who would step for­ward would have his or her blood drawn, with the sample sent to Jack­son Me­mori­al Hos­pit­al for ana­lys­is. Ex­penses would be paid, and the sur­gery is con­sidered risk free. In­di­vidu­als can live with one kid­ney.

Re­cip­i­ents like Gar­vey usu­ally can live with the donated kid­ney the rest of their lives. The trans­plant would elim­in­ate the need for dia­lys­is, lessen the risk for heart dis­ease and high blood pres­sure and ease the neg­at­ive im­pact on oth­er or­gans.

“It would be life sav­ing, and it would add to my lifespan,” Gar­vey said. “I want to be around as long as I can. I still have a son to raise.”

As Gar­vey waits, he gets his blood drawn monthly, as he’s done for the last eight years. Since last March, he’s gone to dia­lys­is treat­ments Mondays, Wed­nes­days and Fri­days for 3½-hour ses­sions each time. He is also on a vari­ety of medi­cines.

“Our cab­in­et is loaded with med­ic­a­tion,” he said.

The dia­lys­is is ne­ces­sary and ef­fect­ive, but it does take a toll on the oth­er or­gans and con­trib­utes to high blood pres­sure. Gar­vey also deals with fa­tigue.

“I’m sur­viv­ing,” he said. “But the whole pro­cess of dia­lys­is is ex­haust­ing. It takes years off your life. It’s tax­ing on all the oth­er or­gans in your sys­tem.”

Gar­vey is thank­ful for his fam­ily’s help dur­ing the long or­deals. Mi­chael was just 2½ when his dad first got sick, and Cas­sie stayed awake dur­ing the 24-hour trans­plant.

Both of them are look­ing for­ward to watch­ing him en­joy a bet­ter qual­ity of life with a new kid­ney. He’s already sur­vived some tough chal­lenges.

“He’s a mir­acle,” his wife said. ••

Po­ten­tial donors can call the Uni­versity of Miami Jack­son Me­mori­al Hos­pit­al Trans­plant In­sti­tute toll-free at 877-999-9298, or con­tact yt­orres@med.miami.edu 

To make a dona­tion to cov­er the costs re­lated to the trans­plant sur­gery, send checks to Mike Gar­vey Kid­ney Fund, 144 N. Sylvania Ave., Jen­k­in­town, PA 19046.

To reach Mike Gar­vey, e-mail mgar­vey860@com­cast.net


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