LIMA — After a decade on dialysis, Kevin Tate’s father died of chronic kidney disease. When Tate found out he suffered from the same disease, he faced a similar fate — until a childhood friend from Lima offered to act as his kidney donor.
Tate said he was in Lima when he was first diagnosed with the disease. Swelling calves sparked a medical visit back in October 2017, and doctors pointed to the same genetic disease his father died from.
Following the diagnosis, he faced two options — wait six to eight years on a donor list or to find a willing living donor. He reached out to some close friends and family. A few got tested, but he didn’t expect an old high school friend to step up to the plate.
Kendra Giles said she came into the picture after Tate suffered a fall that broke his shoulder. Due to issues with the adrenal gland located at the top of the kidney, muscles in Tate’s legs have been affected by the hereditary disease. He currently uses a walker to get around and works from home in marketing.
“We’ve been friends since 10th grade. He’s like a brother to me, so it wasn’t a hard decision to come to,” Giles said. “If the roles were reversed, I think he would do the same for me.”
Both Giles and Tate graduated in 1991 in Lima, but they attended different high schools. Tate went to Lima Senior High School, and Giles graduated from Perry High School.
“Kendra told me in October of 2018 that she went and talked it over with her husband to get tested to see if she could match. I was in dialysis at the time. I was just really touched in her willingness to be matched,” Tate said.
So Giles got tested, and one day at work, she got the call from the hospital. They told her not only was she a match, but her kidney was a “perfect match” — donor lingo for a match with the best possible outcome.
“A few months later, right before Christmas … she called again, and I’m not thinking anything about that, about the donor stuff. I had a few relatives test, and something always comes back negative because it’s not a match. There’s health issues and different things. It wasn’t anything expected,” Tate said. “She said, ‘I’m a match.’ It was just really touching. I was on dialysis (at the time) and overcome with emotion. I’m kind of crying. And the nurses ask me what’s wrong, and I said ‘I found my kidney.’ The nurses, they were getting emotional and crying with me.”
Before the donor surgery date can be set, Tate has to go through some final testing to identify any potential neurological damage due to his kidney failure. Those who receive transplants have to take additional drugs to hamper the body’s immune system so it doesn’t reject the kidney, and Tate has to ensure he has a clean bill of health before getting the final okay.
As for Giles, she said she isn’t too worried about the upcoming surgery. If anyone is worried, it’s her mother.
“I had to go Georgetown to complete a second phase of testing. My mom went with me because she was nervous. She attended the classes with me. We went and had dinner with Kevin and his family,” Giles said. “Other people are adding to my anxiety. I think it’ll be fine.”
“It tells you the type of person that she is. I’m just so humble. It makes me feel good as a person that someone is willing to put their line on the line for you,” Tate said.
Tate and Giles communicate often as they wait for the final test results. Some of it is their normal banter, but the kidney topic does come up from time to time.
“I told her, ‘you better be drinking lots of water and doing plenty of exercise. You better be taking care of my kidney,” Tate said jokingly.
Giles said she had promised to drink enough water, but she couldn’t guarantee the exercise.
“Enough bad stuff happens in Lima,” Tate said. “But there’s a lot of good stuff — the friendships and the bonds you carry all throughout life. Those bonds that you form in your hometown, they bring you together.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.