Man Receives Gift Of Life After Losing Brother
Posted June 17, 2003
DURHAM, N.C. — Transplant recipients call organ donation the gift of life. At the same time, family members of the organ donor are dealing with a terrible loss. One family recently went through the joy and sorrow of organ donation.
"We were always close. We were always best friends," said Philip Lewis of his older brother, Peter.
Lewis' lifesaving kidney transplant is bittersweet. A native of the Bahamas, Lewis had lived with kidney failure for years. He was on a transplant waiting list for 3½ years when he received the phone call that changed everything.
Peter Lewis suffered a stroke and was brain dead. The Lewis family wondered if Peter's kidney could help Philip.
The kidney was in the Bahamas; Philip Lewis was at Duke Medical Center.
"With him being in the Bahamas, initially I was skeptical that things could be pulled off," said Dr. David Butterly, Duke nephrologist.
Lewis' doctors worked with Carolina Donor Services and doctors in the Bahamas and Florida to get the kidney to Durham. `
Lewis had one request -- to see the kidney.
"I haven't heard of an international transplant such as this," transplant surgeon Dr. Brad Collins said. "Because the circumstance was so unusual, we let him see the kidney beforehand which is very unusual."
"I looked in the jar and looked at the kidney so I could remind myself of my brother -- that a piece of him would be going inside of me," Lewis said.
For the first time in years, Lewis is living his life again, knowing every day a part of his brother still lives in him.
"I'm strong, I'm healthy and I'm ready to go," he said. "It's a wonderful feeling that I know a part of him is in me. He left here on Earth, but he's here in my heart."
Peter Lewis' other kidney, pancreas, liver and heart were donated to patients across the country