BG man to get kidney from his aunt
Written by JORDAN CRAVENS Sentinel Staff Writer
Monday, 25 March 2013 09:42
It’s hard to tell CJ Culpert never had a right kidney. The 33-year-old Bowling Green man laughs heartily, strikes up conversations with the cashier at the grocery store and is very active in his recycling job through Wood Lane.
|CJ Culpert (left) and his aunt Mary Ann Culpert pose at the Culpert residence Sunday afternoon. (Photo: Shane Hughes/Sentinel-Tribune)
But about two years ago, Culpert began showing signs of decreased kidney function. He gradually started sleeping more and became less energetic.
His doctor told Culpert's family he had two options: find a donor for a transplant, or begin dialysis. Without one of the needs being met, his system would begin shutting down.
In response, friends and family were invited to be tested to see if they would be a good donor match. Culpert's parents, Chad and Cheri, of Perrysburg, also put their son on a national donor list.
As it turned out, the near-perfect match for CJ was very close to home.
His aunt, Sister Mary Ann Culpert, president of Notre Dame Academy, was his closest living donor match. The aunt/nephew pair matched five out of six criteria used to determine how willing CJ's body will be to accept a new kidney.
Typically, siblings or parents provide a better match as a living donor. But in CJ's case, it was his Aunt Mary Ann. The two have always shared a close relationship and CJ never misses their weekly phone chats.
Like many of the Culpert family members, Mary Ann Culpert went for her match testing and sort of put it in the back of her mind. About two weeks later, she got a call from the transplant coordinator.
"When she called, I was just stunned," she said. "And I think they (CJ's parents) were equally stunned."
From the moment she was told her kidney would be a near-perfect match for CJ, Sister Culpert never faltered.
"My reaction was: Why wouldn't I do this?
"It's been a real blessing and gift to be able to do this."
Doctors have assured Culpert that despite a short-term recovery after the surgery, her life won't change a bit as a result of the transplant.
"It's pretty much just common sense. When you have energy to do something, then do it," she said.
But for CJ, the surgery is very much life-changing.
A second kidney will add anywhere from 15 to 25 years onto his life.
"How do you say thank you? I mean she is saving our son's life," said CJ's mother as she held back tears.
The transplant surgery is scheduled for Tuesday morning at the University of Toledo Medical Center.
"As the surgery gets closer, it is getting harder for me to know what these two are going to go through," Cheri Culpert said.
But her son reassures her everything will be just fine.
"CJ says he is going to be a brave man and she (his aunt) is going to be a brave woman," his mother said.
"He understands what is happening, but I don't think he understand the magnitude of it," his father said.
While there are some nerves, the Culpert family is more than ready for the big day.
"I am ready to go. Let's get er' done," said Mary Ann Culpert.
Her brother, CJ's dad, agreed: "It's been a long road. I think we are all ready."
While Culpert was born with numerous birth defects, it wasn't until he was 8 year old when his family learned he lacked a second kidney. They found out after CJ was in a car accident while he was being treated at the hospital.
"What has been a learning curve for me was that when I think about people in need of a kidney transplant, I picture those who are already on dialysis and are knocking on death's door," Mary Ann Culpert said.
"But if you have a living donor who is willing, you can plan ahead so you don't have to get to the point of dialysis.
"There is a huge need for living donors. I've learned that through this process," she continued.