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John Hembree and David Edwards

A kidney transplant patient receives a lifesaving letter

On Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, at 7 a.m., John Hembree and David Edwards of McDonough, Ga., took part in the state’s first-ever “live tweet” of a robotic nephrectomy and living donor kidney transplantation at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital. Minute-by-minute updates, photos and videos of the two men’s surgeries were shared with the public via five of Piedmont Healthcare’s social media outlets: Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.

“About 15 years ago, I was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease,” says David Edwards, a kidney transplant candidate at Piedmont Transplant Institute. “My brother has it, my sister has it and we know my son has it.”

About seven years ago, Edwards’ father, who also has polycystic kidney disease, received a kidney transplant at Piedmont. Because the disease is genetic, it is likely that more members of Edwards’ family will be diagnosed as well. Edwards was placed on the kidney transplant list on Sept. 26, 2012. “If I don’t have a kidney transplant, it’s the worst way of life you can have, with dialysis three days a week for four hours a day,” he explains. “That’s just something people don’t want to go through. That’s the worst case for me.”

Finding a donor

“We knew that people had gone to be tested, but we didn’t know how many, we didn’t know who and we didn’t know if they were going to be a match,” says Edwards’ wife, Pam. “The waiting part was very difficult.” Pam received an anonymous text message on Sunday, Nov. 4. The text came through at 7:30 p.m., but she didn’t see it until two hours later. It read, “Hey, Pam. There’s something in your mailbox for you.”

In her mailbox, she found a thick envelope addressed to the Edwards family. “I thought it was odd – who put this in my mailbox, what is it and who is this text from?” she recalls. “I flipped back to two pieces of white paper and the first thing I see is ‘Piedmont Hospital’ at the top.”

As she finished reading each page, Pam handed them to her husband. It was a letter from John Hembree, a member of their church, who secretly underwent evaluation and was a kidney match for Edwards. “We read it a few times before it actually sunk in that we had a match,” says Pam. “We had a kidney. We feel gratitude beyond measure.”

When Hembree came to their house the next night, Pam told him, “There will never be a Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, birthday, Father’s Day, graduation or wedding where we won’t forever be grateful.” She says Hembree’s selfless act is keeping her husband alive.

“What they have done, what he is willing to do, is keeping my husband and my children’s dad alive,” she says. “He’s giving him a quality of life that otherwise he wouldn’t know.” Click here for donor John Hembree’s story.

To learn more about living kidney donation, visit the Piedmont Transplant Institute.

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