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Friday, March 20, 2009

The True Act of Giving of Thy Self

Kidney donors, an outstanding example of caring for family and fellow man.
By Sid Riley
We all tend to take our health and enjoyment of life for granted…..until something goes wrong. Perhaps the most important personal asset we have is our health. Good health is more important than success, money, career, possessions, ….and even golf and fishing. We all live with a great regard for maintaining a strong heart, preventing cancer, and maintaining a good diet, but what would you do if you had a kidney begin to fail?
God gave us two kidneys to utilize, even though one would do the job. Unfortunately, when something goes wrong which causes kidney failure, it usually simultaneously destroys both kidneys. Until the era of modern medicine, loss of kidney function was a sure death warrant, as body toxins poisoned and killed.
The kidney dialysis machine was invented in 1945 by a Dutch Doctor named Willem Kolff. Amazingly Kolff died four weeks ago at the age of ninety seven.
The first successful kidney transplant in the U.S. occurred in 1954, when one identical twin donated one of his kidneys to his ailing brother. Later, tissue typing and improved anti-rejection drugs enabled wider use of the operation. The first successful transplant using these techniques occurred in 1962.
George Kenneth Britt, Jr.-
Probably the first kidney transplant of a Jackson County native occurred in 1972, when a young Campbellton youth was struck by kidney disease. George Britt, Jr. was raised near Campbellton, graduated from St. Paul School in Campbellton, and enrolled in Florida A & M to study Agricultural Economics. He was only twenty five years of age, and entering his junior year of study when tragedy struck.
His health began to fail, with periods of extreme weight loss and declining health. After testing it was determined his kidneys were in the process of failing. Soon he was on dialysis which required two trips per week from Tallahassee to Gainesville Shands Hospital at the University of Florida. At that time the large and expensive dialysis machines were not plentiful, with only the largest hospitals providing the service. It took a full eight hours of torturous treatment for young George to cleanse his blood. His younger brother, Otis usually accompanied him on these long, tiring trips. Throughout this one and a half year ordeal, Britt managed to continue working at the Department of Agriculture and going to school. He finally graduated and went to work full time. In 1970 Leon County donated a dialysis machine for his use at home. George’s wife was a nursing graduate, and she soon learned how to administer the treatment.
Finally kidney transplants began to be performed at Gainesville. The Britt family soon began testing for a proper match to see which member of the family could help poor George. His mother and sister were determined to be poor matches, Otis was still too young to be a candidate, and so, it was his father, George Britt, Senior, then age 59, who was chosen as the best donor. Without hesitation the loving father volunteered for the new procedure.
The operation was performed at Shands Hospital in Gainesville in 1972. The transplant was a success, the kidney match worked, and both George Senior and George Junior were soon back at work. Approximately two and a half years later tragedy struck young George again. He was stricken with a severe case of pneumonia, and his weakened antibodies could not cope with the attack. Ultimately his transplanted kidney also failed, and he died in 1975 at the young age of twenty seven. He was buried by his loving family in Campbellton at the St. Paul’s Church cemetery.
But that is not all of the story! George Britt, Senior lived a fruitful, full life as part of the Campbellton community. He died in 2007 at the age of ninety four, peacefully going to sleep in his easy chair at home. He too, was laid to rest next to his son in the St. Paul’s Church Cemetery.
Today, Otis Britt still lives in the small family home just down the road from St. Paul’s. He died with the satisfaction of knowing he had done all a father could do for a son, he had given of himself, and had given his son over two years of additional, good life before he finally died.

Otis Britt displays pictures of George Senior and George Junior.

Harry Fuqua

A well known successful area businessman and lifelong resident of this area, Harry Fuqua seemed to have everything going his way. Having a loving family, nearing retirement after a lucrative, successful career, traveling and enjoying golf and the good life…..until his kidneys failed. It was 1996.
Testing revealed Harry had developed Bright’s disease, which resulted in kidney failure. He was told he had four options, medication, dialysis, transplant, or death. He immediately began the torture of dialysis three times per week, intertwined with two years of medication, several types of dialysis, infections, peritonitis, tests, tests, and more tests.
After enduring two years of this continual strain, it was obvious to all who knew and cared for Harry, that he was slowly declining, and unless some new course of action could be found, he would soon be dead. He had been on the waiting lists for a transplant at transplant centers in Gainesville, but it did not appear that approach was going to result in a kidney soon enough. Potential family donors were tested for tissue and blood match, which quickly eliminated his sons, Matt and Jonathan from consideration. Finally a suitable match was found in the person of James Robbins, his former son-in-law who resided in Jacksonville. When the discovery was announced…Harry broke into tears.
The transplant took place at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore on Tuesday, March 16, 1999. After a few complications and fearful post operative moments, both donor and recipient began the road to recovery. A new life began for Harry as a result of the sacrifice made in his behalf by James Robbins.
This week marks the tenth anniversary of the operation. The family is planning a memorial party this weekend to celebrate the event….including a special invitation to James Robbins. You can be sure some prayers of thanks will be offered during that time.
Today Harry is going strong, looking healthy, and eager for something to occupy his time and attention. His faithful wife, Vicki still keeps a vigilant eye to be sure he is doing everything he is supposed to do to maintain his health. She was a valiant warrior at Harry’s side throughout their saga. They both feel they have been “to Hell and back”, and now share a deeper love for life, family, and each other.

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