(PHOENIX – February 11, 2021) — This Valentine’s Day has special meaning for a prior kidney donor and recent kidney transplant recipient.
In 1997, Damian Paige had the honor of donating a kidney to a friend in need. This week, Paige and his wife, Lisa, are celebrating their love and the fifth month anniversary of Paige becoming the 100th patient to receive a life-changing kidney transplant at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix.
“I was so happy I could help a close friend in the early 90s. When I learned that I was a ‘universal donor,’ because of my O blood type, it was an easy decision for me. In fact, I was the first person to donate a kidney to a non-relative at that hospital. And now, I’m so thankful for this second chance at life and for the opportunity to spend more time with my wonderful wife, Lisa,” says Paige, 47, of Mesa.
Following a routine physical, Paige was diagnosed with kidney failure. Prior to the diagnosis, he had considered himself healthy, aside from slightly elevated blood pressure and having gained a few extra pounds. The kidney failure Paige experienced was not related in any way to his prior organ donation.
Knowing dialysis would only prolong the inevitable, Paige and his doctors began discussing transplantation as a treatment option. Transplant patients require life-long follow-up care.
“I needed to improve my overall health as much as I could to prepare for the surgery,” says Paige, who spent 18 months on dialysis before receiving the transplant. “I worked hard dieting and exercising, and I ended up losing more than 100 pounds in just 14 months. I had to prove to my transplant team that I was completely serious about this choice, and that I was willing to work hard and do whatever it takes.”
Once he was physically fit for the operation, Paige only waited about six weeks before his prayers were answered.
“In addition to Damian’s hard work to get where he is today, his wife Lisa has been an incredible source of support. Watching their love throughout this process has been inspiring. It was exciting to be able to tell such a great couple like the Paige’s that Damian’s surgery was a milestone for our program. We are thrilled with his ongoing progress and wish Damian and Lisa a wonderful Valentine’s Day together,” said Gabe Quiroz, Paige’s transplant coordinator at St. Joseph’s.
A hobby machinist and outdoor enthusiast, Paige says he is looking forward to a normal life again, without having to rely on machines and medical regimens.
“I’m not taking a moment in this life for granted, and I hope I’ll soon be able to travel to see some old friends again. This Valentine’s Day might be a little different and quieter, but we are happy to celebrate our life together from the comfort of our home,” says Paige. “I thought they were joking when they told me I was their 100th patient when I was being discharged. It’s still surreal. Dignity Health lived up to its name by providing me with a sense of dignity throughout the process.”
St. Joseph’s kidney transplant program opened in 2014 and offers transplant consults, evaluations, surgeries and post-care. Both cadaveric and living donor transplant services for adults are provided. In addition, St. Joseph’s partners with Phoenix Children’s Hospital for pediatric living donor services.
The United States saw more than 23,000 kidney transplants in 2019. Arizona’s current waiting list for kidney transplantation is in the 1,000s. Members of the community can learn more about becoming an organ donor at www.dnaz.org.
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