Health Team

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. Gerald, Jovan Sharpless 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.”


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  • AreYouHelpingOrHurting Jun 14, 2013

    Are you an organ donor? I am.

    3 ways to express your wishes:
    1. Put the heart on your NCDL through the DMV
    2. Tell your family
    3. Signed up at

  • simplelogic Jun 14, 2013

    "Just because the doctors say you can eat/drink anything doesn't mean you should."

    People with kidney failure have very restrictive diets, because the kidneys normally excrete excess potassium, sodium, phosphate, etc, so only foods low in those ingredients are allowed. After kidney transplant, those foods (most of which are good for you) are allowed again, which is HUGE. This is what is meant by "eat what you want".

  • simplelogic Jun 14, 2013

    "I didn't know it was that rare for a match to come from someone so closely related."

    It's rare because you get half of your antigens from each parent, so the father had to have the same antigens that the son got from his mother in addition to those that came from himself. Very rare situation.

  • davido Jun 14, 2013

    Wow, excellent! Just a word of caution (and this goes for all of you too): eat well, not too much fast food, drink lots of fluids, you know, all the stuff your mom told you to do. Just because the doctors say you can eat/drink anything doesn't mean you should.

  • Scubagirl Jun 14, 2013

    "I didn't know it was that rare for a match to come from someone so closely related. jackflash123"

    Nor did I.....Great news for the both of them.

  • Jack Flash Jun 14, 2013

    This is awesome. I didn't know it was that rare for a match to come from someone so closely related.

  • iron fist Jun 14, 2013

    A life saving blessing from God may God continue to bless this family.

  • ttc248 Jun 14, 2013

    Awesome. Thanks, Dad. What a privilege to give life...twice.
    May you both be more abundantly blessed.

  • Michellex4 Jun 14, 2013

    Celebrating God's answered prayers for this family! Many Jovan and his father have many years of beautiful memories together!!!

  • arfamr1008 Jun 14, 2013

    Thats great...and actually a blessing in 2 different ways