Twenty-seven-year-old Ray Fearing suffered from focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), a common type of kidney disease, and needed a new kidney. His 24-year-old sister, Cera Fearing, wanted to give him hers. The transplanted kidney immediately began to grow diseased, so doctors removed it. But then something happened that, according to the doctor who performed the procedure, had never been done before. The unhealthy kidney was removed and replanted into another patient, and the disease was reversed.
The second recipient, 67-year-old Erwin Gomez, is doing just fine with the new kidney.
In addition to affecting Ray, focal segmental glomerulosclerosis is also a common complication following kidney transplants, developing in 40 percent of kidney transplant recipients. Because of Ray’s preexisting condition doctors were extra cautious, monitoring the health of the kidney very closely. They saw signs that FSGS was developing within 24 hours of the surgery. Further testing confirmed that the disease had in fact taken hold and doctors therefore removed the kidney 14 days after it had been implanted.
The recipient then became the donor. Erwin Gomez was suffering from end-stage renal disease brought on by type 2 diabetes. Dr. Lorenzo Gallon, the doctor at Chicago’s Northwestern University who performed the surgery, re-implanted Ray’s kidney into Gomez. Immediately the kidney showed a turn-around. Biopsies showed that the lesions caused by FSGS had been reversed and assessments showed normal filtration function. According to Dr. Gallon, such a reversal had never been seen.