When Curtis Newbold learned in 2008 that his renal failure required a kidney transplant as quickly as possible, he wasn't sure how good his chances were.
Curtis had been in and out of the hospital frequently and was now spending 3 days each week undergoing 4-hour dialysis treatments. Cleveland Clinic doctors informed him that if he couldn't find a kidney donor soon, he would spend the rest of his life on dialysis.
According to national statistics, minorities represent more than half of the people on the U.S. organ transplant list. African American transplant patients also wait about 2 to 4 times longer to receive a transplant, due to a higher rate of chronic kidney disease.
Since Curtis is a Bahamian citizen, his path to receive a kidney transplant was all the more difficult. Policies developed by the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) allow up to 5% of recipients at a transplant center to be from other countries. Curtis and his family knew that the odds were very slim and time was not on their side.
After his wife, mother, and brother all learned that their blood tests had resulted in unsuccessful donor matches, hope seemed lost. In the end it was a different brother, not of blood relation, who stepped up to save Curtis' life.
Dr. Delon Brennen, Curtis' Omega Psi Phi fraternity brother from college, had stayed informed on Curtis' condition throughout the process. When he learned that Curtis had not found a match yet, he went to a nearby hospital in Atlanta, GA to get tested.
When Delon's results came back as a match, he retuned home to make the long trip with Curtis from the Bahamas to Cleveland, OH as quickly as possible to undergo transplant surgery.
"You never know what side of the coin or what side of the bed you're going to be on. So one day you could be donating and the other day you could need a donation. It really is incumbent upon us to put ourselves out there and be selfless."
Curtis and Delon's transplant surgeries were performed by Dr. Charles Modlin, a transplant specialist at the Cleveland Clinic, and his team.
"Had his friend not stepped forward to donate, he may have been relegated to waiting for five years, 10 years," says Dr. Modlin. "You really don't know how long he would have had to wait."
Delon says it was a very easy decision to donate to his friend and brother.
"You never know what side of the coin or what side of the bed you're going to be on," says Delon. "So one day you could be donating and the other day you could need a donation. It really is incumbent upon us to put ourselves out there and be selfless."
Now healthy and recovering, Curtis has follow up appointments at Cleveland Clinic Florida every 3 months to check on his progress. Every 6 months he returns to Cleveland as well, to meet with Dr. Modlin's team.
He knows that without Delon's help, none of this would have been possible.
"He gave me a true brother love, the gift of life," says Curtis.
Glickman Urological & Kidney Institute