Lodi Unified employee Tim Edsell recently returned to work, with a major assist from long-time colleague Marc Karim.
Edsell, who oversees electrical, energy and operational management systems, has served the school district for more than 30 years, starting as a custodian in 1987. His colleagues describe him as humble and hardworking. What some may not know is that Edsell has been quietly battling polycystic kidney disease.
Diagnosed in 2006, Edsell was confirmed to have the same form of kidney disease as his maternal grandfather, mother, and his mother’s two siblings. His grandfather and mother passed away at 60 and 75. The main symptoms that arise from this form of kidney disease is high blood pressure, side or back pain, and low energy.
In 2017, Edsell went through extensive testing and evaluation to be listed as “active” on the deceased donor list. Later that year, an arteriovenous (AV) fistula, which allows blood to flow directly from an artery to a vein, was placed in his arm to prepare for kidney dialysis.
Due to rapid kidney function decline, Edsell was placed on dialysis immediately and his treatments took place three days a week for four hours.
Edsell’s dialysis continued for over a year. During that time, several friends and family were tested as potential donors but a match was not found. Blood and tissue types must align in order for a transplant to take place; while Edsell could accept any blood type, he was unable to find a tissue match.
This is not uncommon. According to Donor Network West, a nonprofit organ procurement and tissue recovery organization, nearly 600 people are waiting for an organ transplant in San Joaquin County. Across California, 22,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant.
Edsell remained among those patiently awaiting an organ donor until last summer. Karim had heard about Edsell’s need and offered to be tested as a potential “living” donor. The offer was life changing for Edsell. According to United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), people can wait years for a kidney transplant from a deceased donor.
“It was an incredible gift from a non-relative,” Edsell said.
When asked about his decision to be tested, Karim had a modest response. “I did it out of the goodness of my heart. I don’t want attention,” said Karim, who has been a plumber in the district for six years.
After testing and evaluation, it was determined that Karim was a close blood match for Edsell.
Mitch Slater, a Lodi Unified maintenance and operations director who has worked with both Edsell and Karim for years, said he isn’t surprised by the selflessness and compassion of his colleagues.
“They are both exceptional people and colleagues. This act of generosity speaks to the type of men I work alongside. It has been my honor to work with such wonderful and caring people over the years,” he said.
Karim was fully approved as a living donor in December 2018 and the transplant surgery took place on Feb. 1 at the California Pacific Medical Center. After just three days in the hospital, both Edsell and Karim were deemed healthy and were able to return home.
Edsell shares that he is “doing great” and “his kidney function is within the normal range now.”
While Edsell will remain on a medication regiment in order to prevent rejection for the rest of his life, he is grateful for the future that Karim has given him through organ donation.
“Organ donation offers the hope to heal,” said Noel Sanchez, public affairs manager at Donor Network West. “The generous decisions of donations and their families give hope to those in our community who wait for a second chance at life.”
Karim echoes Edsell’s sentiments. While the road to recovery has had it challenges and pains, he is back at work and doing well. From his experience with organ donation, Karim says “it’s brought us closer together. His daughter wrote a poem to thank me. It was really special.”
To learn how to become an organ donor, you can visit: https://optn.transplant .hrsa.gov/learn/about-donation/.
To read more about Edsell’s organ transplant journey, please visit: www.edselladventures.com