Third kidney transplant for three patients, One unites five family members

It was the day before Thanksgiving and David Raasch had a lot to be thankful for – he was receiving his third kidney transplant from a family member. It turns out he wasn’t alone.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes,

It was a recent weekday when IU Health transplant surgeon Dr. William Goggins was making his rounds at University Hospital. He stopped by the outpatient clinic to see one of his patients David Raasch, 31. During an hours-long surgery, the day before Thanksgiving Raasch received his third kidney transplant under the care of Dr. Goggins.

“Usually third kidney transplants are unusual,” said Dr. Goggins. “But in the past five days I’ve had three patients who have received their third transplant.”

Raasch was born to Gary and Kathryn Raasch on May 19, 1988. He was delivered by Cesarean birth at 33 weeks, and arrived one minute after his twin brother, Taylor – at 10:06 a.m. It was the first delivery for Kathryn Raasch. The couple didn’t know they were having twins until she was in her sixth month of pregnancy.

Shortly after he arrived, David was whisked off to IU Health Riley Hospital for Children and was diagnosed with bilateral cortical necrosis – a rare cause of acute renal failure. He started peritoneal dialysis at 12 days old. Thirteen surgeries followed and at the age of 17 months, Raasch received his first transplant under the care of Dr. Mark Peskovitz who was tragically killed in a car accident in December of 2010.

David’s first donor was his dad and Gary Raasch said he will always remember that date Oct. 11, 1989.

“That day is forever etched in my mind,” said Gary Raasch. “His transplant coordinator Mary Lynn Subrin swears he was the youngest and smallest in the state to receive a kidney transplant. She was incredible through this journey.”

That transplant lasted 17 years. David’s parents and his Danville community kept a close watch over him. He avoided preschool when there was an outbreak of the chicken pox or the flu.

“In elementary school he had fabulous teachers who supported him and it was through them that we identified that David has a hearing impairment,” said his mom, who also served as principal of the lower elementary school. Through the Indiana Association of School Principals Kathryn Raasch helped organize school fundraisers for Riley Hospital. David joined the efforts and also participated in the Transplant Olympics as a sixth grader, earning medals in swimming competitions. He later helped with promotions for the National Kidney Foundation and also served as a volunteer for Riley Hospital.

“When the twins were in grade school and they came to the principal’s office to find me, I’d hide behind the counter. I wanted them to have a normal elementary experience,” said his mom.

The twins were close. They grew up participating in youth leagues. David was restricted from contact sports and became a manager for football, baseball and basketball while his brother ran the field and the court.

“There was no pity party for me,” said David. “He had some wonderful coaches and mentors and this was a way for him to be around his peers,” said his mom. “And if someone from the outside stuck their nose in where it didn’t’ belong, Taylor was there,” added his dad. Throughout childhood the boys enjoyed fishing trips to Canada and later David served as the best man at Taylor’s wedding. Taylor and his wife now live in Baltimore and have two children – one named “Henry David” – after Taylor’s twin brother. Through a previous marriage, Gary has an older daughter Laura Davis who is also married with two children.

David’s first transplant lasted 17 years. He remained in the care of nephrologist Dr. Asif Sharfuddin. He graduated from Danville High School in December and on Feb. 7, 2007 under the care of Dr. Goggins, he received his second transplant from his mother. After his recovery, David attended Vincennes University to study mortuary science. Since a very young age, when he helped a neighbor plan a sacred burial of a pet hamster, David had an interest in funeral planning. Ron Randolph emerged as a mentor and hired David to work at Weaver & Randolph Funeral Home in Danville. He also works part time at Crown Hill Cemetery.

“I like serving others,” said David. “I feel like I’m giving back to the community.”

His second kidney remained strong until July 29, 2019 when he went into end stage renal failure and began hemodialysis a month later. As he began preparing for a third donor, both his brother his sister Laura Davis were tested as a match.

David’s parents describe the decision of which sibling would be the transplant donor as a sort of “arm wrestling match.” Both parents and siblings were eager to become his donor. A recent family photo shows all five of them wearing black t-shirts made by Davis. Green lettering identified donor 1 (his dad) and the date, donor 2 (his mom) and the date and donor 3 (his sister) and the date. David’s t-shirt reads: “Kidney thief. I have 5 kidneys but 4 are decoys. His brother’s t-shirt reads: “Donor 4 on deck.” The back of the t-shirts read: “Keeping it all in the family.”

To Davis becoming a living donor was simple. “My brother needed a kidney. In my mind, anyone would do that for a sibling or family member.” She remembers clearly David’s first two transplants and decided early on that if he ever needed a third she would be tested. In a social media post she wrote: “This has been a whirlwind of emotions however, the real hero in this story is David, being dealt the hand of life he was given, going through now his third kidney transplant, multiple other surgeries, periods of dialysis, daily amounts of medications, daily struggles and never giving up.”

As Davis was wheeled into one operating room, David was wheeled into another. He said he felt a calm come over him. “It’s like a second home here and I can’t say enough about Dr. Goggins, and my post transplant coordinator Mary Taber. They’ve been fantastic and make me feel safe and calm,” said David. And as he came out of surgery, his twin brother was there holding his hand and calling him a “hero.”

His entire family – parents, siblings, nieces and nephews waited through the lengthy surgery and offered support.

“It’s like God gave us a front row seat in watching a miracle,” said his father.