Donor Helps Brother-in-Law on the Road to Recovery

Photo of John Gatten and Dennis Negley

Kidney donor John Gatten, right, with his brother-in-law recipient, Dennis Negley.

On the same day that he donated a kidney to his brother in law, John Gatten became the 1,000th donor at the University of Maryland Medical Center who had a minimally invasive kidney removal.

John Gatten, the mayor of Newville, Pa., gave his kidney to his brother-in-law, Dennis Negley, 57, of Gettysburg, Pa., who suffered from kidney failure as a result of Type I diabetes. The kidney removal and transplant were performed on August 31 at the Medical Center, which has performed 1,000 minimally-invasive kidney removals from people who have donated a kidney to a family member or friend. Gatten went home from the hospital less than 24 hours after the surgery.

“The laparoscopic approach is less invasive," said Gatten. "The hospitalization was very short and quick. I went in at 1:30 p.m. on the day of surgery and was discharged at 3 p.m. the following day. Overall it was very quick and easy."

Gatten says he's glad he had the chance to help his brother-in-law. "I've noticed Dennis has so much more energy since the transplant. He was very active before the kidney disease. The kidney disease slowed him down. It was very rewarding for me to get him back to where he was before."

Negley, a telephone company employee, began having kidney problems 14 years ago and has been a diabetic for 33 years.

At first, he was treated medically. "They put me on different diets to watch what I eat so I did not force my kidneys to work harder," he said. Eventually doctors offered dialysis as an option but Negley wanted to find a donor instead. His doctor recommended that he come to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Negley had lost about 85 percent of his kidney function by the time he came to the Medical Center last spring to be evaluated for a transplant. Three family members offered to donate a kidney and were tested, and the family ultimately decided that the donor would be Gatten, the husband of Negley's sister, Duryea.

Negley is very grateful to Gatten, and to his doctors at the Medical Center. "I just can't thank John enough for giving me the gift of life; I really appreciate it," he said. "I'd also like to thank the doctors because they did a wonderful job. I can't believe how I feel. I have energy, I feel great."

Gatten was also pleased with the care he received from Dr. Michael Phelan, who removed Gatten's kidney for the transplant. Dr. Phelan is the director of Minimally Invasive Urological Surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center and assistant professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

"Dr. Phelan was great. He had a great bedside manner, he was very personable, and he answered any questions that I might have had. It was a very good situation," Gatten said.

He also stressed the importance of becoming a living donor. "In the state of Pennsylvania, on your driver's license, you can check whether you want to be a donor. So why should I wait until after I'm gone or after something major has happened when I can give something now?"

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