Carthage police Chief Greg Dagnan compares having his new kidney to the frog being removed from a pot of boiling water.
“I felt bad so gradually, I didn’t realize how bad it was,” he said during a telephone interview while on his way to Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis for a three-week checkup.
Dagnan underwent a kidney transplant in July to treat polycystic kidney disease, or PKD. While the transplant is not a cure, normal kidney function will allow Dagnan to return to everyday life. And with the quick rate of recovery for transplant recipients, he said he feels ready to get back to regular living sooner than doctors advise.
“All the sudden (my kidney is) working and for me it has been kind of an irony; I feel good and I feel like working, but then you go to stand up and it’s like ‘Oh, that hurts,’” he said. “I’m still not supposed to lift anything and I’m still not supposed to drive. I feel pretty good, and I’m usually not good about listening to doctors’ advice, but this is too important. I haven’t broken the rules, but I’ve wanted to.”
Dagnan spent approximately a year with declining kidney function limiting his life. Before receiving his transplant, he had dipped close to the 10 percent kidney function that requires dialysis.
He and his live donor, Tricia Waddell, one of Dagnan’s former law enforcement students when Dagnan taught at Missouri Southern State University, went in for their three- to four-hour tandem surgery July 29. According to Dagnan, both are doing well.
“You go to recovery and they start hoping the kidney starts working,” Dagnan said. “It didn’t do anything for about two hours, then for lack of a better term, it woke up and started working. It has been working ever since.”
Dagnan expects to return to work in early September, while Waddell’s recovery will take longer. She’ll go back to work at the Kansas City Police Department in late September or early October. Her body will adapt to only having one kidney, a process that she said might make her remaining kidney “a little mad, but it can do it.”
“I could tell there was this hole, you could tell something was missing,” she said, “But overall it hasn’t been nearly as painful as I was expecting.”
While she has lost a kidney, Waddell said she has gained a close relationship with Dagnan and his wife and four daughters.
“Every time I go see my parents, I’ll go see them; I just have an extra family to go see,” she said.
When she’s fully recovered, Waddell’s life will return to normal. While Dagnan will be able to return to normal activity, he will have to make some life changes to accommodate his new organ. Buffets, hot tubs and other places with high germ levels are off limits, and Dagnan will have to take medication to keep his body from rejecting the new kidney.
“It suppresses your immune system to the point that your body doesn’t say, ‘Hey, that’s not my kidney,’ and reject it,” Dagnan said.
Until the Carthage police chief returns to work, he’ll be at home with his family and the many visitors who Dagnan says drop in daily.
“One of the most humbling and amazing parts of this whole thing is how supportive everyone has been,” Dagnan said. “The day of my surgery the waiting room was full, and by full I mean 40 people. Somebody from the city calls every day. I have visitors come by the house every day. I don’t know how people go through this without a support system. A negative thing turned out to be a really positive experience.”
Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is characterized by the growth of numerous cysts in the kidneys. PKD cysts can enlarge the kidneys while replacing much of the normal structure, resulting in reduced kidney function and leading to kidney failure.
In the United States, about 600,000 people have PKD, and cystic disease is the fourth leading cause of kidney failure.