Kidney, Now! Whitney Pannell’s prospective mother-daughter donor story took a turn

Kidney, Now! Whitney Pannell’s prospective mother-daughter donor story took a turn

Kidney, Now!

Mother-Daughter prospective donor story took an unexpected turn

by Whitney Pannell


Many years ago, my mother suffered an allergic reaction to sulphur drug when she was 11 years old. Her doctor had been treating her flu with sulphur. She was hospitalized for three weeks and suffered from acute nephritis. Her doctor at the time said she would probably be affected by this later in life.

Thankfully, she lived her whole adult life with no kidney issues. Then two years ago, at the age of 73, her kidneys started to break down. She began seeing a nephrologist who monitored her kidneys. We were hopeful that her kidneys wouldn’t get any worse, but over the course of two years, their function decreased to 16 percent capacity.

I guess in my mind I had a hard time realizing that her heath was deteriorating and that her kidneys weren’t going to get better on their own. There were really only two options. Kidney transplant or dialysis. Her doctors referred her to The Transplant team at University of Cincinnati.

We traveled up there and met with their team and were told rather bluntly that she had two years to live unless she found a living kidney donor. In that moment of shock, I looked at my mother and the doctor and I said “I’ll donate my kidney!” I didn’t hesitate for a minute. After all, my mother is my best friend. While we were there they tested my blood to determine if I would be a match. A couple weeks passed, and the nurse from the hospital called and said I was a match. We were thrilled!

There were more tests that needed to be conducted, so we scheduled those and I went back up to Cincinnati for a full day of testing consisting of a CAT scan, EKG, echocardiogram, and numerous blood tests. Never in a million years did I think that my tests would turn out anything but normal. It truly never entered my mind that I wouldn’t pass with flying colors. Well, the tests proved me wrong. They called to tell me they had found a sizable tumor on my liver. To say I was shocked was an understatement. I am not even a drinker. I went through a whole range of emotions from disappointment, to fear.

Whitney picks up 2011 Ace Best of Lex Readers' Poll title

I wanted answers and I wanted answers now!

Thankfully, I have several good friends who are physicians and I was able to have the CAT scan films Fed Ex’d to them the  next day.Thankfully, none of them thought it appeared cancerous, but they felt like I needed to be evaluated by a liver specialist to make sure, and we were referred to one at UK. I immediately liked him; his warm; down to earth approach was a welcome relief from the doc in Cincinnati who bluntly told my mother she’d be dead in two years.

He advised me that he and his team of doctors had evaluated my films and

Whitney's surgery in progress

determined it to be a hepatic adenoma which in layman’s terms is a non cancerous tumor. It was too big to biopsy, and he said the risks associated with not removing it were that it could rupture or could become cancerous over time. After discussing it with my husband and my mother, I decided to go forward with the surgery to remove it. We were most impressed with the team of doctors and nurses at UK, and it’s convenient to have them here in Lexington, because the logistics of me going elsewhere and trying to juggle two children’s schedules would make it too difficult on everyone involved.

Whitney’s surgery was January 5, and the benign tumors were removed. Her mother still needs a Type A, or a Type O, kidney donor.

This article also appears on page 7 of the January 12, 2012 print edition of Ace.