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Sister who got new kidney is to leave hospital soon

Her brother, who spared her a grueling dialysis regimen, is recovering at home.

By RYAN DAVIS

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 11, 2001


Sandy Patterson, who received a kidney transplant from her brother last week, may leave Tampa General Hospital today. If not, she's expected to go home by the end of the week, a transplant institute spokeswoman said.

Her 32-year-old brother, Tom Patterson, of Zephyrhills, returned home Tuesday to his wife and four daughters, as well as a niece and nephew he is helping raise.

"No one can believe how well it has gone," said Murrel Dozier, their mother. "It's a miracle."

Both surgeries Jan. 5 were successful, said Ruth Bell, a spokeswoman for LifeLink Transplant Institute, which is overseeing their surgeries and recovery. Sandy's transplanted kidney started working before she left the operating room. Tom's remaining kidney started to compensate immediately.

When Sandy, 40, who has Down's syndrome and had underdeveloped kidneys, woke up after her surgery, she first asked about her kidney. Then Tom.

"She wanted to know where her brother was," Dozier said. "She said, 'I need him.' "

The siblings first saw each other Saturday.

Sandy told Tom she loved him. He said he loved her back.

On Wednesday doctors removed the ports in Sandy's chest that were needed for her to receive dialysis treatments three times a week for the last 15 months.

The regimen drained her smile, energy and desire to dance. Her family feared that it also was draining her will to live faster than she would be able to find a kidney donor.

With a new kidney, she expects never to undergo dialysis treatments again.

"That makes it all worth it," Tom said.

Sandy will go from the hospital to her mother's Zephyrhills home and return to the Montana group home in Zephyrhills on Sunday. Her release from Tampa General hinges on the removal of a post-surgery drain that was inserted near her new kidney, Bell said.

Because doctors were able to easily remove Tom's kidney, he expects return to work at Action Corrugated, a Tampa box company, in five to seven weeks.

Wednesday afternoon he was parked on a recliner, watching television and hoping to ride along this weekend while his friends play golf.

The Zephyrhills Dixie Softball League, which he helps oversee, will hold its planning meetings inside Tom's house so he can attend.

Tom also received a paycheck for last week, leading him to believe that his leave from work will, indeed, be paid.

"Tommy acts like he hasn't done anything special and it's just an ordinary thing," Dozier said, "but he's given her life."

- Ryan Davis can be reached at (800) 333-7505, ext. 3452, or by e-mail at rdavis@sptimes.com.

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