CHADWICK, Ill. — Drew Bush spent last week Friday like any other – hooked up to a dialysis machine as it filtered his blood.
It’s a trip he makes to Sterling, Illinois three times a week, with each session lasting four hours. The dialysis stands in for the one kidney he used to have. It had to be removed last year because of cancer.
But last Friday’s dialysis appointment was different than any of the others. A door into the treatment area opened and in walked the woman who is his hero, green cape and all.
Holding a sign that read “Have no fear, your kidney donor is here”, Dawn Temple made her way into the dialysis unit to tell Bush, who is her uncle, that medical tests showed she can give him one of her kidneys.
“It is unbelievable that someone would do this for me,” he said of the donation and surgery that will be Oct. 17 at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City.
Temple, whose father Doug is Drew’s brother, said she felt compelled to help her uncle in light of the health struggles among her aunts and uncles.
“Cancer, the word nobody ever wants to hear, but here is where my decision started to take shape,” she said. “Out of my father and his five siblings, four of the six have been hit with different cancers. I love all of them... So this word cancer, a horrible disease, doesn’t sit well with me at all.”
Bush’s struggle goes back more than a year, when he was diagnosed with kidney cancer after he had been in a car accident in early 2018. Routine tests and scans showed a cancerous mass on his left kidney. The news was not good for Bush, who was born without a right kidney.
The surgery to remove the mass, which was done in Iowa City, led to a stay in the intensive care unit and a total of 13 days in the hospital. Another surgery later was needed to remove the kidney.
That was rougher than the first one, Bush said. Adhesions had formed after the first surgery, attaching the kidney to his diaphragm. As a result, his lung collapsed when the kidney was removed.
Now with his only kidney removed and zero renal function, he’s been on an intense medication regimen and dialysis while a kidney donor has been sought. A Facebook page, Drew’s Donor Journey, where people now can find a GoFundMe page to help, was set up for people to follow his search and hopefully lead to a donor.
All the while, Temple was watching that journey play out.
“We knew that Drew would get surgery to remove his cancer mass and to check that it hadn’t spread and that eventually he’d be needing a transplant in a few years, after he was said to be cancer free,” Temple explained. “But when the plans all didn’t pan out and the remaining part of his only kidney never regained function, the need for a transplant was going to happen faster. At least I knew it would, but he wasn’t on the transplant list yet.”
But he would be after an episode of hypertension that caused him to lose his sight for 36 hours.
“The doctors then decided the rest of his kidney needed to come out and he would be on dialysis and need a transplant as soon as his doctor said it was a go,” she explained. “My father was hoping to be his match because, with siblings, the chance of matching is pretty good. But my Dad’s blood type didn’t match. My mom also considered as well but when she filled out her medical form online, she was turned down too.”
Temple also decided to see if she could be a match. She was excited to find out in June that she and her uncle share the same blood type.
“I didn’t hesitate to log in to the web link posted on my uncle’s Facebook donor page late that night and fill out the forms,” she said. “My Grandpa Bush lived out his final days having to be on dialysis and with kidney failure and I never really realized the burden and struggle something like that has on a person and family until years later, after being in the health field as a massage therapist. I now have a better understanding of the body and what a gift we all have. I wasn’t going to let my uncle live like that.”
The day after she submitted her forms, medical staff from Iowa City called. She waited to call them back and got a hold of a friend and former coworker, Adam Paysen, who had had a transplant.
“We talked and he gave me some information about it and I felt more at ease with how it works. That’s when I found out he was back in the process of needing another kidney himself. So I figured if I got down the line and I didn’t match my uncle maybe I would him. Even though he told me he wouldn’t let me, I would have tried for him as well.
“So I called University of Iowa and started the process of seeing if I was a match,” she said, adding the decision wasn’t made lightly. “There are risks and I, too, have a family. My son Corbin is 8 and my daughter Zelly is 5 so they go through my mind and will up until surgery, but I’m confident in both surgery teams at University of Iowa that all is going to go great.”
As to how the day of surgery will go, Bush said he has an appointment next week to learn more about what will happen. He said Temple will go into surgery first and then the kidney will be brought into his operating room.
Bush said he is excited to know that he may feel normal again in less than two weeks’ time. Right now, he battles an overall sick, sluggish feeling, which he said is probably from toxins that aren’t completely removed through dialysis. He has talked to some kidney recipients who said they felt great soon after the surgery.
The feeling of excitement has been accompanied by overwhelming emotions as well.
“God and Jesus Christ have given me this gift,” he said.
Temple also is relying on her faith.
“There have been many miracles in his story that have kept him here on Earth and I am happy to be one of those so he can get back to living his life,” Temple said. “Our journey is not over as we will need prayers and good vibes as we go through surgery and recovery and for the transplant to be successful for many many years.”