Brothers celebrate transplant anniversary

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Today, March 9, is a special day for the Benson family of Greenville. It marks the one-year anniversary of the day Wayne Benson received a new kidney.

That kidney, and the new lease on life it offered Wayne, came from his &uot;near-perfect match&uot;, younger brother Hal. Wayne had been battling kidney disease, further complicated by his diabetes, for several years.

As his health continued to deteriorate, doctors said a transplant would be the best hope for Wayne’s quality, and quantity, of life to improve. Last March, surgery was performed on the brothers at the University of Alabama-Birmingham Medical Center.

When asked how things are going for him one year later, Wayne replies, &uot;So far, so good.&uot;

An active, athletic type, until poor health put him on the sidelines, these days he is working on rebuilding at least some of that strength.

The transplant patient says he can now &uot;pretty much do whatever I want to do, though the doctors did say I would have to stay away from contact sports.&uot;

Wayne adds with a chuckle, &uot;I haven’t asked them about basketball specifically yet, but then again, at 43, I’m not sure I’d be able to play the game like I used to.&uot;

Regaining strength

An X-ray technician at Stabler Clinic in Greenville, Wayne has been back to work at the clinic since mid-April 2004, and has worked full-time since May of last year.

&uot;For the first three months, I wasn’t supposed to lift anything over 10 pounds, and then, nothing over 25 pounds. Now they tell me to just be careful. I’ve been doing sit-ups and push-ups to help build my strength back up,&uot; explains Wayne. He is also getting back into his jogging routine.

Hurricane Ivan also brought Wayne an unexpected opportunity to put his muscles back to work.

&uot;We went out to the farm the day after the storm, and Daddy and I worked on fixing fences, cutting wood, hauling wood…it made me realized how out of shape I’d gotten. Having to build my strength back up has been the big thing.&uot;

As for Wayne and Hal’s parents, Gerald and Frances Benson, they are both delighted at the progress made since the transplant surgery, says Gerald Benson.

&uot;It’s been a miracle. For us to see Wayne going down like he was, and then to see him improve and gain his normal health back is wonderful. It’s great to see him being active and doing the things he wasn’t able to do for a long while. He’s been able to go hunting this year, and he really enjoyed that. You’d have to say our prayers are continuing to be answered.&uot;

Wayne’s dad is hoping for another good report when Wayne gets his one-year check up next week. &uot;Wayne’s monthly lab tests have gone well so far; he’s real good about doing what the doctors tell him to do, taking his meds, and drinking plenty of water. You will rarely see him without a water bottle nearby.&uot;

For years a lean and lanky fellow, Wayne must now be careful when he hits the kitchen. &uot;Some of the drugs give him a tremendous appetite, and the doctor told him, ‘Wayne, you’re going to have to keep that refrigerator door closed, you don’t need to gain any more weight.’ But he’s about where he should be weight-wise right now,&uot; says Gerald Benson.

Wayne’s dad says he is amazed at the difference in Wayne since the transplant surgery and recovery. &uot;Before, he couldn’t wait to get off work and put his feet up. He slept a lot. We are just so thankful he is doing so well now.&uot;

Closer than ever

As for Wayne’s 40-year-old brother and donor Hal, he seems to have come through his surgery with flying colors.

&uot;You know, Hal had laparoscopic surgery for his kidney removal, and he was back on the job [at Alabama Power] within a short time. He says he never felt his body undergoing any kind of adjustment to having only one kidney. I’m sure it did have to adjust, but Hal says he never felt it, he’s done really well,&uot; says Gerald Benson.

And there’s yet another reason to celebrate for the Benson Family this March. &uot;Hal and Deedra have a brand new baby, too, Clay Braxton,&uot; says proud granddad Gerald, adding, &uot;He’s a pretty baby, looks just like his dad.&uot;

If anything, Gerald Benson says, the transplant surgery has brought the two siblings even closer together. &uot;They were always really close, but I think that is even stronger now.&uot;

Next Tuesday Wayne Benson goes back to UAB for a one-year check-up. He and his family members are all hoping to get &uot;a really good report.&uot;

After all, Clay Braxton is going to need a healthy, active uncle to play with him.

&uot;We thank everybody for all their prayers. It’s been a miracle,&uot; says Gerald Benson.