For Your Health: Paying it Forward

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By Katie Alexander

When 29-year-old Robert Hughto's body began rejecting the kidney his mother gave him 20 years before, his father, Leon Worthington, offered to donate one of his.

Unfortunately, Worthington's kidney was not a compatible match, and Hughto was put on the transplant list to wait for one that was.

Worthington couldn't give a kidney to his son, but he stayed on the donor list, offering up his kidney to someone else who also has an incompatible donor. 

“It's just a matter of saying, 'Okay, yeah, I'll be good with one kidney, and give one up to make somebody else's life a lot easier,'” Worthington said.

The transplant surgeries aren't done until a match is found for both the donor and the recipient. A match for Hughto was found two weeks ago, after four years on the transplant list.

Next month, father and son will travel to Johns Hopkins Hospital for the transplant surgeries.

“He's getting a kidney whether I do it or not,” Worthington said. “But because I'm on the list and I said I would, I'm doing it.”

Hughto's matching donor is what's called an 'altruistic donor,' or someone who isn't participating in a donor exchange, but simply wants to donate a kidney to a person in need.

“It's very heartwarming, very touching. There's really not much you can say other than thank you,” Worthington said, “and that really doesn't say everything that you're feeling.”

Worthington will donate his kidney December 6th, Hughto will receive a kidney December 7th. They will need to stay in Baltimore until mid-January.

“Right now we're in the process of trying to find a place to stay, and make ends meet here and down there,” Worthington said.

Although the surgeries are covered by insurance, the bill for food and lodging following the operations is not.

Worthington said his employer, the RockTenn paper mill in Solvay, has taken away some of the worry. The company is allowing Worthington extra weeks of recovery time beyond the six weeks recommended, and is helping find affordable accommodations in Baltimore.

Worthington said he knows things will work out financially, just like things finally worked out for his son to get the kidney transplant he's been waiting four years for.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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