You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Dad's priceless gift to son: his left kidney

Houston Chronicle logo Houston Chronicle 6/17/2017 By Andrew Kragie
UP NEXT
UP NEXT

Gage Lipscomb, 14, may have a special message of thanks in his Father's Day card this year.

His dad, David, has given a lot to Gage and his nine siblings over the years. On Wednesday, David gave his youngest son a priceless gift: his left kidney.

Gage fell ill with chronic fevers at age 2. The family spent months in and out of doctors' offices near their home in Bryan near Texas A&M University. Finally, his mom said, an ultrasound led to a diagnosis: a woefully insufficient renal system.

The toddler was so sick that doctors labeled his condition critical. A medical helicopter flew him to Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. Surgeons saved his left kidney in May 2005, but they lost his right kidney to an infection.

Fourteen-year-old Gage Lipscomb underwent a kidney transplant on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. He received the organ from a living donor he knows well – his dad, David.

Fourteen-year-old Gage Lipscomb underwent a kidney transplant on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. He received the organ from a living donor he knows well – his dad, David.
© Courtesy Of Lipscomb Family

"They predicted lots of surgeries for Gage, never potty training," said his mom, Terrie. "None of the things that they predicted have come to pass ... We had only one surgery (and) Gage has led a very normal life."

Gage came for checkups at Texas Children's a few times a year. He took one pill three times a week. But doctors warned that any infection could wreak havoc.

"Gage only ran a fever one time in 12 years," Terrie said. "You live in a family with that many children and go to school and never get sick … We don't really have an explanation. He should have been ill often."

Instead, he was thriving. He played baseball and soccer, sometimes three games a day. He was looking forward to starting high school in the fall and joining the football team, to play along with his brother, a promising senior. Doctors didn't want Gage getting tackled, so he planned to be kicker. The transplant means that won't be possible.

"That's probably what he's mourning the most, that he couldn't play with his brother," Terrie said.

Aside from regular check-ins and medical advice on sports, Gage was treated no differently by David, 57, and Terrie, 55, than their other six sons and three daughters. "Just live your life as normally as you can," Terrie said Friday as her husband and son recovered from their surgeries. "Don't put your child in a bubble ... We don't give him any special treatment. In fact, today I've been on him in the ICU because he wasn't using enough 'Thank yous.' "

This past school year, Gage started feeling worse, said Dr. Christine O'Mahony, his surgeon at Texas Children's.

"It's just been a constant decline," said O'Mahony, the hospital's surgical director for kidney transplantation.

He was about six months away from requiring dialysis - an unhappy prospect.

Gage Lipscomb, seated, received a kidney from his dad, David Lipscomb, left. © Hearst Newspapers Gage Lipscomb, seated, received a kidney from his dad, David Lipscomb, left.

"It shortens your life span," the surgeon said. "Especially for a kid. You don't grow as well."

Difficult process

Fourteen-year-old Gage Lipscomb underwent a kidney transplant on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. He received the organ from a living donor he knows well – his dad, David. © Courtesy Of Lipscomb Family Fourteen-year-old Gage Lipscomb underwent a kidney transplant on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. He received the organ from a living donor he knows well – his dad, David.

So the hunt for a kidney donor began. Most people have two, and many healthy people can donate without ill effect. But doctors wanted a compatible blood type. The family had resisted testing for compatibility before Gage needed a donation, on the advice of doctors.

"That was really difficult through the years, wondering who was going to be a match," Terrie said.

One brother got tested. They waited a week, on edge. He wasn't a match.

The doctor suggested testing David, who the family had assumed would be too old to donate. However, parents share 50 percent of a child's DNA, and David's blood type was compatible.

A June 7 operation was scheduled. Then a test came back with a troubling result concerning David's blood pressure. He went back for another test last month.

"That was very stressful for David," Terrie said. "If your health doesn't pass all the tests, you can't donate ... As a parent, you want to say, 'It doesn't matter what it does to me. Do it for my child.' "

"You would give your life for your child, but it wasn't even our decision," she said.

Friends started a fund-raising campaign to help the family: www.gofundme.com/gagestransplantforlife.

"Praying for the Lipscomb Family," wrote one couple who donated. "To know this wonderful family is to know what strength, courage, faith and unconditional love are!"

The family took comfort in their community, their church and their Catholic faith.

"I just put it in God's hands and know that He will give us the strength to deal with whatever comes down our path," Terrie said.

Operation a success

Fourteen-year-old Gage Lipscomb underwent a kidney transplant on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. He received the organ from a living donor he knows well – his dad, David. © Courtesy Of Lipscomb Family Fourteen-year-old Gage Lipscomb underwent a kidney transplant on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. He received the organ from a living donor he knows well – his dad, David.

A few weeks ago the new results came back. David was cleared.

The operation took place Wednesday, with Gage at Texas Children's and David nearby at St. Luke's. It took a team of 15 or 20 medical professionals in the operating rooms alone, plus more who worked to prep the two patients.

Fourteen-year-old Gage Lipscomb underwent a kidney transplant on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. He received the organ from a living donor he knows well – his dad, David. © Courtesy Of Lipscomb Family Fourteen-year-old Gage Lipscomb underwent a kidney transplant on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. He received the organ from a living donor he knows well – his dad, David.

Everything went well. David's kidney was removed via laparoscope through a three-centimeter incision, O'Mahony said, so he will recover quickly. The transplant team took the kidney across the street to Gage's operating room at Texas Children's. The implantation was smooth.

"It was a perfect kidney," O'Mahony said.

Gage will spend a few days in intensive care and a few more days in a normal hospital room before returning home next week, if all goes well.

David likely will leave the hospital this weekend. He plans to head over to Texas Children's on Sunday to spend Father's Day with his son.

AdChoices
AdChoices

More from Houston Chronicle

Houston Chronicle
Houston Chronicle
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon