Living and Learning: A Patient Paves the Way
If attorney Thomas Coltman learned one thing from his kidney transplant, it's that sometimes you need to grab the bull by the horns.
"After a year on dialysis, I decided to investigate my options," the 73-year-old Fairview Park resident says. "When I asked at the (dialysis) center about a transplant, they told me I was too old."
A year and a half went by before Mr. Coltman decided that answer was not good enough. "I called Jac (Jaclyn Pearl, kidney transplant coordinator) at Cleveland Clinic, and I told her to give it to me straight," he recalls. Ms. Pearl told Mr. Coltman to come in to Cleveland Clinic for an interview. Six weeks later, after numerous tests and giving up vial after vial of his blood, he jokes, he was on the transplant waiting list.
History of Infection
Busy working full-time at his law practice, Mr. Coltman hadn't even known he was sick - until the day in 2001 he fainted and woke up in the hospital.
Diagnosed with a long-standing infection that shut everything down, physicians discovered his kidneys failing and admitted him to intensive care for 15 days. One year later, they prescribed dialysis three days a week.
A somewhat private man, Mr. Coltman arrived at the dialysis center each morning at 5 for his treatment before heading into work - where his colleagues didn't know anything was amiss.
"Being on dialysis is a livable situation, but it does hamper your life," admits Mr. Coltman.
Doing his Research
His profession of 42 years taught him to research complex topics to discover all the options.
"After the initial setback, I got angry," he remembers. "I had to make a living, and I was suffering severe cramping every other day. That's when I called Cleveland Clinic."
Physicians told him even as they listed him that a wait for a suitable kidney may be anywhere from three to five years. That didn't dampen his spirits. At least he was progressing toward a solution, he says.
A Miraculous Network
But 13 months later, Mr. Coltman got the call that gave him the surprise of his life.
"Flabbergasted," he recalls his shock. "There was a kidney in Florida that was a perfect match."
Knowing he was fortunate at such an early match, Mr. Coltman clearly remembers his last day of dialysis. "I was on dialysis for 2 years, 7 months and 20 days," he states.
He received his kidney transplant on April 20, 2005. Venkatesh Krishnamurthi, M.D., performed the surgery.
"I woke up the next morning and felt terrific," he recalls. His sugar level did rise because of the prednisone, but that was the only side effect he experienced. Four days after the kidney transplant, he went home.
Back to Work
Out of the office for two months on physician orders (because of a weakened immune system, some transplant patients need to avoid places where germs might be present), Mr. Coltman did what he knew best: He continued to work - from home.
"My life wasn't really interrupted or put on hold," he says of the kidney transplant. "I had to make a few adjustments for the first few weeks (for example, he wasn't able to drive), but I stuck to my normal routine."
He takes his pills every morning and evening, and he visits his physicians regularly. For him, it was an option he chose to get back to his everyday lifestyle. And he made the right decision, he says.
Mr. Coltman believes everything has its time and place. "In my case, if I hadn't picked up the phone, I'd still be on dialysis," he says. "Everything is fortuitous." He stays in touch with his friends at the dialysis center, and when he can, he encourages them to explore their options as well. "It's been a rewarding experience for me," he says. "I've learned a lot about myself and others throughout this process.
A Huge Sacrifice
The usually stoic lawyer pauses a moment while he considers the person who gave him his new kidney. Normally never at a loss for words, he can't think of how to begin.
"I've certainly shed some tears knowing how traumatic the experience for the donor's family must have been," he says quietly. "They had to lose a family member, but they saved someone else's life. I'm unbelievably grateful."