Father is rare perfect match to donate kidney to son
Posted June 13, 2013
Updated June 14, 2013
Shooting hoops is one of the things Gerald Sharpless and his son, Jovan, have always enjoyed doing together – and something they thought Jovan might not be able to do anymore.
“It's just a tremendous blessing to watch him slamming balls down again, going up above the rim,” Gerald Sharpless said.
Jovan had the autoimmune disease lupus nephritis.
“With neprhitis, it attacked my kidneys,” Jovan said. “It just slowly caused my kidneys to lose function.”
He went on kidney dialysis in May 2012 and became one of about 500 patients at Duke University Hospital waiting for a kidney donor.
“I started praying on the spot,” his father said. “I started praying that I'd be a match for my son.”
African-Americans are disproportionately at higher risk of diabetes and hypertension, which leads to kidney failure if untreated.
“It's not often that we find within our community, the African-American community, that a father is able to give (a kidney) to a son,” said Dr. Bradley Collins, a Duke transplant surgeon.
Collins said kidney failure is more common among older adults who typically receive help from a younger donor - not the other way around.
Many adults over age 50 don't think they can be a living donor. Father, son share greater biological bond
But that’s not true, said Sharon Hirsch with Donate Life NC, a nonprofit that promotes eye, tissue and organ donation.
“It's possible to be a donor at any age,” she said. “There's no limit. You can't be too old or too young to be a donor.”
But you do have to be a match, which was Jovan's dad's prayer.
“I wasn't just a match,” Gerald Sharpless said. “I was a perfect match.”
Jovan said, “It lucked out. We're a perfect six-point match, and that's rare.”
Both of them recovered quickly after the surgery, and Jovan is back in college.
“He’s eating anything he wants, running around, just being Jovan,” Gerald Sharpless said. “My son's healthy. End of story.”