World Kidney Day 2013: One Man’s Selfless Gift

By: Sarah Weber

Gerald “Jerry” Ivory is one of more than 600,000 Americans diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease (PKD),  a genetic illness that caused his kidneys to enlarge so badly that he had to quit working, had difficulty breathing and going to the bathroom, and eventually had to have both kidneys removed, leaving him dependent on dialysis.

“When they removed my kidneys, they weighed over 40 pounds and were larger than footballs,” Ivory said.
Realizing that dialysis was only a short-term solution, Jerry was placed on the transplant waitlist at UPMC. Though he knew living-donationwas an option, no one in his immediate family qualified to be his donor.
“I have two daughters and PKD is hereditary. I passed it on to one daughter, and her daughter, at four years old, already has cysts on her kidneys,” Ivory said. “My other daughter offered to donate her kidney, but I refused. I told her that her sister might need one and she needed to save hers.”
After more than three years on the waitlist, Jerry’s niece from Ohio came forward. Unfortunately, her medical history prevented her from being a donor. 
It was then that Steve Fields came into the picture.
Fields, a postal worker from Oklahoma, was introduced to Jerry through a mutual friend. Though they occasionally would speak on the phone, the two spent very little time together.
In February 2012, Fields was watching football and saw a commercial in which quarterback Tom Brady was endorsing organ donation. He called Ivory the next day.
“My wife and I talked about it and there was no doubt in my mind that this is what I wanted to do. She backed me 100 percent. Although family members were concerned, they were all supportive,” Fields said. 
Fields (left) and Ivory 
(right) after the transplant.
The transplant took place in May 2012. 
“When I opened my eyes in recovery after the transplant, I knew I was better. It was like I had a new pair of glasses,” Ivory said. “To [donate your organ] to a relative or close friend is one thing, but Steve wasn’t even a very close friend. It was a true blessing.”
Since the transplant, Ivory has been able to spend more time with his wife and family, without having to worry about extreme fatigue or dialysis.
“I’m doing way above average, I’m exceptional. There was not one hiccup throughout the transplant process, and it couldn’t have gone any smoother,” Ivory said.
His donor, Fields, can walk his normal eight to 12 miles a day carrying mail without a problem. “After about six weeks I went back to work. The only way I can tell this happened at all is if I look at the scars, other than that it’s been a full recovery,” he said.
Jerry feels extremely grateful and blessed that there are still good people like Steve who truly care about helping others.
“Of course now, Steve and I are closer than ever,” Ivory said. “We’re planning on driving to visit each other as soon as we can.”