Local family deals with life post kidney transplant
By LYNETTE SOWELL
A local family has experienced the life-saving benefit of the donation of a kidney by a family member, although some needing transplants are not as fortunate.
Twenty-two people die every day in the United States waiting for a kidney transplant, most waiting 7 to 9 years, according to the team at MatchingDonors.com, a group which helps connect living organ donors for people needing kidney transplants.
Shane Kieltyka is a former Copperas Cove police officer and a former reserve officer for the Coryell County District Attorney’s office who received a kidney from his mother, but is now awaiting another transplant.
Kieltyka, father of three young boys, is a veteran of the United States Navy and said three’s no history of kidney disease in his family. Yet after boot camp in 1995, while he was stationed in Panama, a physician noted protein in his urine. After Panama, Shane was stationed in the Middle East, where the protein was noted again and it was decided he needed to be seen by doctors stateside, and he was assigned to an Active Reserve unit in Waco.
“Doctors in Waco decided I was ‘unfit’ for active duty. I was assigned to the VA for care and honorably discharged from the Navy in April 2000.”
That’s when Kieltyka was hired to the CCPD and began a career with them in September 2000. He worked for eight years with no issues until July 2008 when his kidney function dropped to about 12 percent.
“I had to start dialysis and take paid leave from the department. I had been saving all my time since being employed for this time. In October of 2008 my mother donated a kidney me,” Shane said. “Before transplant, you live on a very strict diet, have to watch fluid intake, and take medication to help kidney function. After the surgery it took about six months before I could return to work. Not so much from pain, but trying to allow my now compromised immune system to build up enough for me to go back to a job that put me in contact with hundreds of people weekly.”
The cause of Shane’s kidney issues is a disease called IgA nephropathy, known as Berger’s disease, which occurs when an immunoglobulin A (IgA) lodges in someone’s kidneys. The resulting inflammation, over time, can hinder the kidneys’ ability to filter waste from the blood.
Life continued pretty normally after the transplant, save for Shane taking anti-rejection medication. He also avoided alcohol and cigarettes, and nothing prevented him from being an active husband and father.
Then life took a drastic turn when he was involved in a rollover accident on FM 116 between Gatesville and Copperas Cove.
“I suffered massive injuries. Broken left ankle, broken left hip (repaired with a metal plate and seven screws), three broken ribs, a broken sternum, punctured lung, broken right shoulder, broken back, a broken neck, and damage to my transplant.” Shane was out of work until March 2011, but after his return to work, he was still unable to run properly so he resigned from the department because he felt he was unable to perform his duties. After that, Shane volunteered as a reserve officer for then-district attorney David Castillo and continued on staff as a full-time investigator after Dusty Boyd took office in 2012. All along, Shane said doctors had been trying to save his transplanted kidney. Then in March 2015, Shane had to stop working again.
“I am currently on dialysis as my kidney is again functioning at about 12 percent. I have several friends waiting to be tested as a possible donor. I am able to receive a 2nd transplant, but it is harder to do because of all the anti-rejection medications I take and antibodies produced by my body,” Shane said, adding that his next transplant will be done by the VA in Houston.
“The outlook’s positive if a donor can be found, and the outpouring of support from my friends and strangers offering to be tested is overwhelming.”
All along, Shane’s wife, Bev, a registered nurse herself, has remained by his side. The couple has been married since 2001, with an 11-year-old son and soon-to-be three-year-old twin boys.
“We have been together almost 17 years. I can’t imagine a day without Shane. As difficult as finding your true soul mate, knowing you will outlive them... It’s terrifying and exhausting,” Bev said.
She has faced the challenges of a caretaker head-on.
“From the point of a caretaker, this is hell. I worked in emergency and intensive care for 4-1/2 years. I’ve helped people live, and seen them die. I’m trained and capable of saving a life, but I can’t do anything for my own husband.”
As for the impact on their family, Bev said Jayden, “is entirely too smart and strong” for an 11-year-old.
“We’ve always had the deal, that we would tell him the truth, and he would do the same. So, he knows exactly what’s going on. The hardest part, is having to answer, ‘Why does this happen to us?’ The best I have come up with, is, why not us? Jayden certainly understands more than he should have to.
“Luckily, our twins have an amazing caretaker, who covers everything we can’t. Nanny ‘Licia, as the boys call her, started keeping them when they were infants.”
The couple has had a role reversal, with Shane now staying home with the twins, when previously Bev was the one home with Jayden when he was small. She currently works in long-term care.
She describes their life after the first transplant as having both a sense of relief and yet also the feeling of “living under a cloud.”
“Waiting for the storm, because one day, we’d be starting the process all over again. I watch him constantly, trying to see any signs of renal problems. I actually told Shane and his transplant nurse practitioner when he was about to hit total renal failure. He was hospitalized a week or so later,” Bev said.
Things are looking up for Shane receiving another donor kidney. With his mother’s donation the first time around, it was almost a complete match, said Bev. Another positive is that Shane doesn’t have a lot of antibodies that would make finding a second match more difficult.
“We’re also lucky, because many of our family and friends are willing to donate. Finding a donor can be the hardest part, and we have that covered!” Bev said.
The Kieltykas are among thousands annually who receive living organ donations. In 2016 alone, more than 5,900 living donors helped extend the lives of patients nationwide, according to Donate Life America.