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Gary Bush, UCLA Kidney Transplant Recipient

  • By Joel Swerdlow, Kevin Sparkman, Russell Sparkman
  • Published May 1, 2004 8:00 AM

On a recent Monday morning Gary Bush of Tustin, California, awoke to a breakfast of banana with a scoop of ice cream and some protein formula mixed with milk. After breakfast, he finished planting a new rose bush in his backyard. But he was never far from a telephone. Three times in the past 20 days, a call had come from one of UCLA Medical Center’s kidney transplant coordinators saying, “We think we have a kidney, but a few people are ahead of you.” Once, he even made the hour’s drive north to UCLA where he was prepped for surgery before being told that someone who was a better match received the organ.

Bush is a member of a group that is unlike any other in history: the more than 84,000 people in the U.S. waiting for organs. Every community in America includes such people, whose lives are on hold as they wait to see if the generosity of strangers will save them.

And like Bush, many of them turn to the UCLA Medical Center, a national leader in the art and science of organ transplantation that offers programs in kidney, pancreas, heart, lung, liver and bone marrow transplants. UCLA’s Transplant Program - one of the largest in the world - has earned a national reputation for its clinical and academic excellence, performing hundreds of adult and pediatric transplants each year.

“The staff, scientists, nurses, physicians and surgeons at UCLA are dedicated to improving the lives of patients by providing the best results that organ and tissue transplantation have to offer,” commented H. Albin Gritsch, associate professor of urology and director of renal transplantation.

Bush, who had been waiting more than six years for a kidney, underwent peritoneal dialysis – one of the two forms of dialysis available – which meant that for hours each day he put a special fluid into his abdomen and drained it out. At bedtime he hooked himself to a machine that continuously pumped fluids out of him as he slept.

But he wished and prayed not to sleep through the night. He wanted a telephone call, a hand on the shoulder, a voice saying, “It’s time. Let’s go. You have a donor.”

One day, after a quiet day of yard work, Bush received that long-awaited call from the UCLA Medical Center. "We have a kidney for you," the transplant coordinator said.

"A real kidney?" Bush responded, adding as he calmed down, "Are you really going to give it to me, and not someone else?"

"Come up here now," the coordinator said. "This kidney will be great for you."

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