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Greg B Family Ties – Greg's Kidney Transplant Story

Thanks to the generosity of two relatives, a kidney transplant recipient is able to maintain his active lifestyle.

Greg Bayard is passionate about sports. The 58-year-old sales representative from Scotch Plains played basketball in college and coached basketball and baseball when his children were young. In 1999, he was working full-time and coaching his son’s teams in the evenings when he started to feel unusually tired. “I had so little energy I could barely climb into the shower in the mornings,” he recalls.

Greg was diagnosed with a degenerative kidney disease called focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), which destroys the filters in the kidneys. “By 2003, I was on dialysis and knew I would need a kidney transplant,” says Greg.

“FSGS can cause a rapid decline in kidney function,” says Ronald Pelletier, MD, a transplant surgeon and program director at the Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH). “In cases like these, finding a living donor, such as a family member, is the first option.”

Healthy people have two kidneys, and the body can function normally with one. To perform a living donor transplant, surgeons remove a healthy kidney from the donor and transplant it into the recipient. The transplanted kidney resumes function immediately. Afterward, the recipient must take medications that suppress the immune system and prevent rejection of the kidney for the “lifetime” of the organ.

A New Kidney

Greg soon found a donor: his sister, who was 42 at the time. After receiving the transplant in 2005, Greg was looking forward to resuming his active lifestyle. “Unfortunately, the disease immediately attacked the new kidney,” he says. “It came back 10 times more aggressively. I was coming to terms with that when my doctor got me approved for a procedure called plasmapheresis.” This procedure involves filtering the blood and removing antibodies, which had attacked the donated kidney.

Against the odds, the procedure was a success. Greg spent the next 14 years living a fairly normal life, aside from taking an intensive regimen of medications. In the summer of 2018, the new kidney failed, and Greg went back on dialysis. “There are many variables that affect how long a transplanted kidney will work, including the source of the kidney and the overall health of the patient,” says Dr. Pelletier. About 50 percent of donated kidneys are still functioning after 15 years.

Greg’s son, Greg Bayard Jr., 30, a salesperson for a building supply company, told his father he would be the next donor. “I knew the kidney from my aunt wouldn’t last forever,” he says. “I decided long ago that when the time came, I would donate.”

A Second “Gift”

Both father and son saw Dr. Pelletier and his colleague, Advaith Bongu, MD, at RWJUH’s Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Center. After testing their blood types and tissue to ensure compatibility, the surgeons determined that the younger Greg was an ideal match.

On February 12, father and son went into the operating room together. “After the procedure, we were placed in adjoining rooms,” says Greg. “The first time we were able to get up and move, we met in the hallway and hugged. It was emotional, to say the least.”

They were released from the hospital within five days. So far, the new kidney is working well with no complications. “The whole process was fairly simple,” says Greg Jr. “I didn’t hesitate or have doubts for a minute about donating. My dad is the reason I am who I am today.”

Greg and his son look forward to sharing their favorite pastimes again: playing golf, attending New York Jets, Mets, Knicks and Rangers games, and spending summer weekends at the family’s home on Long Beach Island. “Seeing my son’s commitment to donating his kidney was awe-inspiring,” says Greg. “I have a wonderful family. The love and commitment we share is constant and permanent.”

Finding a Donor

One of the biggest challenges patients like Greg Bayard face is finding a suitable donor. Ronald Pelletier, MD, transplant surgeon and program director at the Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, says he’s seen donors come forward in unexpected ways over the years. He recommends that patients enlist a friend or family member who can serve as a “donor champion” to search on the patient’s behalf through friends and family, social media networks and word of mouth.

“One recent development that’s really helping kidney transplant patients is the concept of a donor exchange,” says Dr. Pelletier. “If a patient has a donor who isn’t a match, we can potentially match him or her with another patient in the same situation, so both can get the kidney they need.”

To learn more about the Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, call 732.253.3699 or visit www.rwjbh.org/rwjuhtransplant.