(June 2013) Rob Waddell knew at an early age that he would need a kidney transplant. His mother has had two transplants and polycystic kidney disease runs in his family. “I’ve had two uncles that’ve died from this disease. At early ages. I mean they went on dialysis, they had a transplant, something happened, they’re no longer here. Their kids are, without, without a dad!”, Rob said.
So when his doctor told him he had to go on dialysis and that a transplant was imminent it was no surprise. Having watched his mother suffer the ups and downs of taking anti-rejection drugs her whole life, he was thrilled to find out there was another option. He entered a clinical trial whereby he would receive an adult stem cell transplant from his kidney donor at the time of the kidney transplant surgery. The donor’s adult stem cells would allow Rob to accept the same donor’s kidney, essentially re-training his immune system so that it would recognize the donor kidney as part of Rob’s own body.
Rob says, “Well, I decided to do the stem cell transplant because I didn’t want to live the rest of my life on immune rejection drugs. The good and the bad of immune suppressant drugs is they let the kidney stay in your body. The bad part is that slowly over time it kills the kidney. It’s toxic to the kidney. So those drugs, over time, will cause the kidney to fail. My wife, Karen, she, when I proposed the idea of me doing this stem cell study, she was really kind of concerned. I mean she didn’t want me to do it because it was new.”
Karen Waddell remembers what she said when she heard about the adult stem cell transplant, “I told him I was totally against it from the beginning. Didn’t like it. I said, you can just have a normal transplant. Your mom has lived through it. You know, we’ll just adjust.”
Rob says, “Seeing my mother go through the repercussions of having kidney disease and the transplant and immune rejection drugs, probably was the number one foundation for me pursuing this.”
After the stem cell infusion, Karen says, Rob was like a new man. “It’s like he’s rejuvenated. It’s amazing. He’s alert. All his faculties are working great. And for him to be just drug-free, oh it’s wonderful!”
“We call him my fifth child and other people that know us too, they’ll tease, because you will see him rip-sticking around the neighborhood, or on the trampoline. So I’m thankful that he was able to just be determined and have that drive and the foresight to know that he was going to get those stem cells.”
Today Rob lives a full and active life chasing four kids around the soccer, baseball and lacrosse fields of Louisville, Kentucky.
“I feel so fortunate, because I’ve been blessed with this. I mean truly a new lease on life. I feel fantastic. My kids could tell you that. I mean I wear them out half the time and I didn’t before.”
“Actually, almost every day since then, I just walk around and I’m like, Wow! I feel so good…I mean is this really happening? These adult stem cells to me were a chance to live a normal life….and it’s amazing.”