Local man searching for life-saving organ

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By Ashley Scoby

A Spencer County man is on the hunt for a living kidney donor after all other forms of medicine have failed to stop his massive kidney deterioration.  

Steven Carroll, a Fisherville resident, has been experiencing critical kidney failure for almost two years – coincidentally, the same amount of time since his daughter, Madison, came into his life.
“I went on dialysis two days after Madison was born,” he said. “That’s when I went critical. I missed the first week of her life. It was the worst Christmas ever. I’ve been making up for missing that week with her ever since.”
Doctors cannot definitively say what got Carroll to the point where he has to be on dialysis every day now. But they think the cause of the problem was the treatment of a bout with pneumonia when Carroll was in the fourth grade. He was given ampicillin, even though he was allergic to penicillin. Since then, his kidneys have essentially been turning into scar tissue, according to Carroll.
“My body was trying to filter out that ampicillin, and the kidneys were just fried,” he said. “The damage was just prolonged. It’s one of those things where you don’t realize something’s wrong until the kidneys fail and it’s too late to fix.”
Carroll has tried essentially everything he can to help his body: He lost 75 pounds, changed his diet, quit smoking and tried alternative forms of medicine. Although he now lives a much healthier lifestyle, his kidneys are still in a battle with the rest of his body.
He was on hemodialysis at first, where two needles “the size of Bic pens” were stuck into his arm. But when the nightmares of the needles started to plague his sleep, Carroll knew he had to find another way. Now, he goes through peritoneal dialysis.
According to the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, “blood vessels in your abdominal lining (peritoneum) fill in for your kidneys, with the help of a fluid (dialysate) that flows into and out of the peritoneal space” during peritoneal dialysis. Essentially, there is a tube inserted into Carroll’s body and he has to hook up to a machine every day and every night. He cannot go swimming or ride roller coasters because of the risk that the tube will wrap around his organs.
Carroll’s absolute best-case scenario includes 15 remaining years of life. But that is only if there are no complications, no illnesses, etc. Carroll has already experienced a resistant strain of staph infection, as well as problems with his intestines. Complications such as those can only shorten his lifespan, as he continues to live without functioning kidneys.
“I just want to see you grow up. I just want to see you become a teenager and hate me,” he joked with Madison, as she grabbed a green bucket and put it over her head.
Having more time to spend with Madison, who is 19 months old, has been a blessing in disguise for Carroll. He says it has made him into a better father and made him appreciate the gift he has been given.
To continue that appreciation, however, Carroll needs that vital organ. One taken from a living donor will last longer than a kidney from someone already deceased.
According to University of Kentucky Hospital living transplant coordinator Lynne Polly, the process of finding a living donor that is compatible with Carroll will be a long one.
First, someone has to initiate the contact with Polly to be medically evaluated. UK Hospital has to screen any potential donors for serious medical issues, as well as family medical history. Then, a potential donor has to have a compatible blood and tissue type with Carroll (he has A-negative blood).
If the donor passes all those tests, they are further evaluated for electrolyte and glucose levels. They are given a CT scan to make sure their kidneys have no unusual cysts, lesions or stones.
One of the final phases of solidifying a donor’s ability to give a kidney involves a meeting with a social worker and a psychological test.
“That’s to make sure there aren’t any major issues as far as the donor having support from their family to do this, and that there’s no coercion or money involved,” Polly said. “Another thing we look at is if it’s going to be a real hardship on their family. There’s no benefit to the donor. It needs to be low-risk for them as far as causing permanent damage to relationships or even with them having potential kidney problems in the future.”
Only after all of that will UK Hospital let Carroll know that they have found a match for him. The goal is to not get anyone’s hopes up if there is the chance the exchange won’t work out.
Even a donor who is deemed compatible with Carroll’s blood and tissue type can still fail to provide a kidney that syncs well with Carroll’s body. According to Polly, there is never any guarantee that a compatible kidney will work once it’s in Carroll’s body.
But even with those chances looming over his head, Carroll says there is nothing left to do but try. His wife, Stephanie, said that although it’s great that Steven can stay at home with his daughter, it’s not worth the price they are paying.
“It doesn’t just affect him. It affects the whole family,” she said. “We just want to get back to our normal lives as soon as possible.”
Anyone interested in donating can contact Polly at 859-323-6544.