MAHOMET, Ill., (WCIA) — Would you give your ex a kidney? It’s not something you hear every day, and the answer is probably different for everyone. But for one woman, the answer was easy.
Quintin Porter has been battling a list of medical conditions for years. Cancer, a torn rotator cuff and an irregular heartbeat kept him in doctor’s offices on a regular basis. But, it was at the end of 2019 when his bloodwork revealed another problem — stage four kidney disease. It was progressing toward stage five.
That’s when his biggest battle began.
“Once I hit stage five, I would need a kidney or a coffin,” Porter said.
It’s news no one wants to hear, and it left Porter terrified. Hearing his kidneys were failing was part of his reality. As 2019 came to a close, the next page in his medical journey was opening.
“They’re like, dialysis is going to be your bridge to a kidney,” doctors told Porter.
He started working with OSF doctors to cross that bridge together. Porter went to dialysis classes, memorized his instructional books and had surgery for a catheter right away.
“If you won’t follow the basic rules…you’re gonna die,” Porter exclaimed.
His body was then ready to be hooked up to a machine and filter parts of his blood that working kidneys normally do on their own. After a few months of being tethered to a dialysis machine for hours a day, he got a text.
At first, Porter said it left him wondering who it could be.
That March 16th, 2022 message was from Christy Stott, his ex-girlfriend from high school.
They hadn’t talked in nearly 40 years.
She told him, “I have your kidney.”
Stott had been following his story on social media.
“He is someone who is so exuberant. He needs to get out there. He needs to live his life. Nobody should be tethered to a dialysis machine all day long…but especially him,” Stott said. “He’s a really active dad and this was slowly killing him.”
So, the transplant process began. It started with filling out papers and getting blood drawn with doctors. Porter said doctors told them it would be a nice fit.
“We did all the testing, and it turned out she was an absolute perfect match,” Porter explained.
Both have Type O blood, but there was one problem.
“What made this unusual is that actually, this was a size mismatch,” Dr. Christopher Johnson said. He is a nephrologist with RenalCare Associates and medical director for OSF Kidney Transplant.
“She is very petite and I am not. I called her the honey bee and I’m the bear,” Porter said.
But, the story doesn’t end there. Dr. Johnson knew there was more that could be done through the National Kidney Registry and Paired Exchange Program.
“There’s dozens or hundreds of different pairs and what they do is they try to match the right donor with the right recipient no matter where in the country it is,” Dr. Johnson said.
So, that’s what happened. Porter’s name went on a list to get a kidney, and Stott’s to donate. After more paperwork, a nurse called Porter.
“She goes…what are you doing October 4?” Porter said. “I went ‘nothing why?’ she goes ‘Oh great we’re going to be doing a transplant that day.'”
His name was in the Paired Exchange Program for only 35 minutes.
“She said it’s the fastest match we’ve ever found in the paired donation system,” Porter explained. “That to me was the greatest day. When they went ‘you’re good to go'”
Porter and Stott went to OSF’s St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria for their surgeries on the same day.
Stott went in in the morning, and doctors sent her kidney off to Cleveland. Porter’s surgery was a few hours later.
“His transplant was complete by that night, so it felt like my kidney was going to him,” Stott said.
But in reality, Porter was getting a kidney from a man in Miami. Now, they’re no longer strangers. The emotions speak for themselves.
“When you give kidney to another person…you give life,” Eris Diaz, Porter’s donor said via video.
Porter considers Diaz a miracle. He’s able to watch his sons grow up because of the donation.
“You’re sharing your life with all of the people in it and that is beautiful,” Diaz went on to say.
Diaz and Porter matched in OSF’s exchange program.
“I didn’t ever expect to meet his gentleman or see him. It’s so amazing, it’s hard to put into words,” Porter said. “You think about your donor but you don’t really know, you can’t fathom where it’s gonna come from.”
Now, Porter has three kidneys.
“Turns out the best place to put a kidney is actually low down kind of in the pelvis,” Dr. Johnson explained. “That’s where the surgeon can get good blood supply and that’s where it can then drain into the bladder very easily.”
He said it’s something that surprises people every day, and that there are more kidney transplants each year.
“About 23,000 kidney transplants in the United States every year,” Dr. Johnson said “That’s a lot. Right now on the list, there are about 96,000 people waiting for kidney transplants across the country.”
Porter is glad his name is no longer on the list.
“When I wrote my donor, I said, I want you to know you’ve restored a husband to his wife, and a father to his sons. I wasn’t sure what was next for me in the future, but I know I have one,” Porter said.
Dr. Johnson expects kidneys to last many years and said one patient he helps has had their organ for 43 years. His best advice for patients who are still waiting for their second chance at life is to hang in there and know your lifeline is on its way.
As for Porter, he’s encouraging anyone who can donate to do so. You never know who you’ll be helping.