Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Son gives back the gift of life to his father

Randy Moomaw/The Times Howard Jackson, 53, of Ashland City received a kidney from his 34-year-old son, Sean, of Chapmansboro.
By Randy Moomaw • The Ashland City Times • June 17, 2009
Howard Jackson received the ultimate Father’s Day gift from his son this year. Sean Jackson donated a kidney to his father in mid-April, and now the Cheatham County men say Sunday will be an extra special day.
“He gave me life 34 years ago, now I’ve been able to give him something to help him to have a good life,” Sean said. “This has brought us closer. There is more of a connection and a deeper understanding, especially being a dad myself.”
In May 2008, 53-year-old Howard Jackson’s kidneys started to shut down. He was diagnosed as a diabetic at age 11 and had been on an oral dosage of insulin ever since.
Howard’s sons, Sean, 34, and Scott, 28, both underwent tests to see if there were viable kidney donors.
Both high blood pressure and diabetes run in the family, so blood sugar levels would be a sensitive area.
Scott’s glucose tolerance test was a point too high to risk a transplant, while Sean turned out to be a perfect match.
A week after the go-head, Sean’s surgery took place at Vanderbilt Medical Center. The day of the operation Sean said that lots of church folks came to pray with his wife, Kennedy, before the procedure.
Howard admits he had some concerns going into surgery.
“I was kind of nervous since my sister had it done in 1988,” Howard said. “She went through the transplant just fine. Later, she needed eye surgery for cataracts. The next night she had a stroke. She then had a massive stroke after we got her to the hospital, and she died. She was in her early 30s.”
The Jackson father-son team went into surgery on a Tuesday at 5:30 a.m. and got out of the hospital on that Friday at 5 p.m.
For the most part the surgery was routine and went well. But for Sean, his surgery took a little longer than expected because his kidney had an extra valve in it. That caused some concern, but everything turned out OK, and an extra valve, though rare, is not cause for concern. Howard’s existing kidneys were operating at 25 percent and he still has those, along with the healthy kidney from Sean. So, he now has three kidneys. Howard’s first order from his doctor was to get up the next morning and start walking.“I was told to walk to Sean’s room down the hall first to say thank you,” Howard said.For Sean, that was a neat, humbling feeling.
After surgery Sean caught pneumonia in the hospital and then had a viral infection after being released.
The first two weeks of Howard’s recovery took place at his son’s home in Chapmansboro. “Paw-Paw is the main source of entertainment for my two sons,” Sean said about Cade, 3, and Maclain, 2.
“Paw-Paw” Jackson was excited to be with his grandkids and joked if he’d known how much fun grandkids would be, he would have had them first.
There have been some lifestyle adjustments and diet changes for both men.
Both are encouraged to keep themselves hydrated, and drink roughly two liters of water a day. They must also avoid analgesics such as naproxen and ibuprofen, which are processed through the kidneys.
“Now I’m able to do more than I ever could before,” Howard said. “And I’ve lost 25 pounds.” Howard has worked for A. O. Smith since 1977 and is back on the job after being out six weeks. Sean missed four weeks from his job with Nashville Electric.
The biggest challenge for Howard has been to keep track of the medication he has to take throughout the day.
Howard still checks in with his doctor twice a week. He has shown no signs of rejection of Sean’s kidney.
Both he and Sean are eating healthier. But it’s more than their perspective on diet and lifestyle that has changed.
Sean, looking at his kids, realizes that what he has given his dad is what it would be like if either Cade or Maclain had done that for him.
“But it wasn’t a sacrifice. I think of all the football and baseball games he had to drag me to,” Sean said. “I know if the situation were reversed Dad would be the first to do it for me.” Looking forward to Father’s Day, Howard gets a little teary-eyed and hesitates a beat as he speaks about where he’ll be on Sunday.
“I know we’ll be together. Every Father’s Day I’ll see him no matter what,” Howard said. “I feel good because my son gave up something for me, and I know what he had to go through.” Sean said he is grateful for being able to contribute to his dad’s overall well-being.
“So many people I know that have lost their dads say to me, ‘If only there was something I could do to get my dad back,’” Sean said.
The family is headed to Florida soon to celebrate the good news and the countless gifts from two incredible fathers.

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