DEXTER — Bill Kidd has been injecting insulin into his system four times a day since he was 23 years old — but no more.
The 42-year-old Operation Desert Storm veteran from Dexter is a recent recipient of not only a new pancreas, but also a kidney. The double transplant was performed at a University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City, which is affiliated with the Veterans Hospital. Kidd was referred to them from his VA doctors in St. Louis. The Iowa location is one of very few in the U.S. where the double transplant surgery is performed.
"This has all been a God thing," says Kidd's wife, Deanna. "He put this all together — from getting him on the donor list so quickly to locating a suitable donor in such a short time — it truly is a God thing."
Bill Kidd has had some close calls over the years in dealing with his diabetes and subsequently other major health issues. He was placed on dialysis three months before his surgery because his kidneys were failing. His failing kidneys, his dependence upon insulin and complications including gastroparesis, a severe stomach disorder, all played into his being a prime candidate for the double transplant.
He's lost two toes to complications from his diabetes and has had surgery on both eyes. The disease was killing him, organ by organ.
So when doctors in St. Louis told the family about the Iowa facility and the possibility of a double transplant, the Kidds listened.
"We prayed about it," Bill says. "We prayed a lot."
The couple's decision to pursue a transplant was the initial step in a lengthy and involved process that began in late 2012.
"I saw every kind of doctor you can imagine for testing before I was approved for the transplant," Kidd says. "I had blood work, X-rays and saw a dentist, a cardiologist, a pulmonologist — you name it. They checked my feet, my legs, my heart. I even had to see a psychiatrist to make sure that I was emotionally and mentally prepared for the surgery."
When it was determined Kidd was an appropriate candidate for the double transplant, the wheels were put into motion. He was placed on a regional donor list in September 2013, for both a pancreas and a kidney. The decision to put him on the list came from a panel of experts at the Iowa facility.
Bill received a call in March from the Iowa hospital stating that there was a possible donor available.
"The doctor told me there was about a 50-50 chance of the surgery being successful," he recalls.
The donor had been a heroin user, and the Kidds didn't feel that it was the right time. Again, they turned to their faith.
"A patient has the right to refuse a possible donor," Bill noted. "I prayed about it, and God said it wasn't yet time, and so we refused that offer."
It wasn't long before another offer came.
"It was April 25 at 11 a.m.," an emotional Bill Kidd recalled. "The doctor said he had a good pancreas and a good kidney. He told me to call my wife at work and get ready to fly to Iowa."
Their bags were already packed in anticipation of the call. By 3 p.m., the couple was in Iowa City. By 8 p.m., Bill was undergoing a 9-hour surgical procedure that has granted him a second chance at life.
Bill spent just 10 days in the hospital, then the couple went to stay at a nearby hotel where Bill could further recuperate while being near his doctors, should any complications arise.
There were a few setbacks. He spiked a fever after a few days out of the hospital and returned to the Veterans Hospital for about a week. He also developed two blood clots and will be taking a blood thinner until October. There were no signs of rejection, however.
"I'll take anti-rejection medications for the rest of my life," he said. "But that's a very small price to pay for getting my life back. I am no longer a diabetic. I still check my sugar every once in a while just to see where it is, and it's always right on track."
Less than three months after his double transplant, Bill is meeting or surpassing all of his doctor's expectations. His physical activity remains somewhat restricted, but his appetite, he says, is good and he's working at replacing some of the 30 pounds he lost since early spring.
The Kidd family may never know to whom they owe their loved one's second chance. The hospital's policy allows donor recipients to send a letter expressing their thoughts and sharing their story after a three-month period has passed. The donor's family may or may not wish to respond to the letter — and that is their prerogative.
"I will definitely be sending them a letter," Kidd says. "And I hope someday that I can meet them and tell them what their donation has done for me and for my family."
As a result of his experience, Kidd is quick to encourage others to sign the back of their driver's license to indicate that they wish to be an organ donor should the occasion present itself.
"It's something I had never done myself before this," he explained. "But after a total stranger giving me this gift, my signature is there now, and I encourage everyone to consider doing the same."