First his mother, then his wife is patient’s transplant donor

As he recently prepared for his second kidney transplant, Alan Wilson began mapping out a plan to help advocate for other patients with kidney disease.

By T.J. Banes, IU Health Senior Journalist,

Resting in a hospital bed, his wife at his side, Alan Wilson talks openly about his kidney match – not once but twice.

On Jan. 27, 2009 his mother, Lori Miller donated a kidney to Wilson. When his body began rejecting the kidney his wife Danielle was tested and was a match.

Wilson explains his health with a blanket term – FSGS, focal segmental glomerulosclerosis. The condition causes nephrotic syndrome and kidney failure. A single disease does not cause it; it can have many different causes including infection, medication or an illness.

Raised in Kosciusko County, Ind. Wilson worked for a time in auto parts and then at Maple Leaf Farms – a poultry company. He and Danielle met through mutual friends and were married June 7, 2008.

Since before his first transplant Rick and Danielle have made it their mission to help educate others about all aspects of kidney disease and transplant. He received his second transplant from his wife earlier this month.

“When I went through this the first time it was 11 months from diagnosis to transplant to back to work,” said Wilson. “I tell people, ‘yes, it’s a big part of my life but it doesn’t define me.’”

He relates how his candid approach to his disease has bridged relationships.

The couple was recently checking out at a local grocery store when Rick engaged in a conversation with the cashier. Within minutes they found common ground – the woman related how she had lost a daughter to kidney disease a few years ago. She walked out from behind her register and gave the Wilsons hugs when they shared their story.

“We have gone from being guarded about our story to being completely open and it has opened doors for others,” said Wilson. Back home in Warsaw, Ind. they started a support group where people with end stage renal failure, family members, and caretakers talk about various topics. The conversations include insurance coverage, finding a living donor, and coping with guilt.

“When my wife found out she was a compatible donor, she was over the moon but I felt guilty,” said Rick Wilson. “How do you ever begin to thank someone for such a tremendous gift – from someone so close to you like your mom and your wife?”