MURRAY — Kingslee Teo overheard a co-worker talking about her husband's deteriorating condition.
And it was pretty dire.
Jason Anderson's rare kidney disease was killing him. He was spending six hours a day on dialysis, which Teo believed wasn't any way for him to live.
"It was pretty crazy. We were always trying to make a plan for the end of his life," Monica Anderson said. "It seemed pretty hopeless at times."
She and Teo had worked together as respiratory equipment assistants at Intermountain Homecare in Ogden for just a couple of months, but almost immediately Teo felt like he should do something to help.
"I'm kind of a spur-of-the-moment kind of guy," the 24-year-old said Thursday at Intermountain Medical Center. "It was an easy decision."
He learned from Monica Anderson that at least four others had gone through the process over the years to determine whether they were a match to donate a healthy kidney to her husband, but that their own medical issues kept them from doing so.
After six months of medical tests and various interviews, Teo learned he was a perfect match.
"I did my research. I knew it was a pretty safe and routine surgery and that I wouldn't be any different when it was over," he said. "I also knew my donation to Jason would dramatically change his life."
Jason Anderson, 48, had been on dialysis for 4 1/2 years, but he'd been plagued with symptoms of the slow decline of his kidneys, caused by IgA nephropathy, for at least 18.
Years of medications had battered his kidneys even more, and he found himself "just getting by" in end-stage renal failure.
"Patients die on dialysis every day," said Dr. Manuel Rodriguez, a surgeon at Intermountain Medical Center. He said dialysis takes years off a patient's life.
Fortunately for Jason Anderson, Teo offered to be a living donor.
The surgery was Sept. 5 and both the patient and his selfless donor are doing well. The yellow has gone completely out of Jason Anderson's skin — it has been replaced by immense and heartfelt thanks.
"Organ donation is where we see the best in humanity," Rodriguez said. "It is the ultimate gift."
More than 114,632 people in the United States are waiting for lifesaving transplants, the majority of them needing a kidney, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, which manages the list.
It's enough to fill a stadium, Rodriguez said.
"There is so much we can do as a society for these people," he said. "If you think about what patients go through, there are so many things that affect their lives."
Living donors, the surgeon said, "are social heroes" — they have the opportunity to help reduce the number of people waiting for organ transplant, but also have a greater impact, being able to designate to whom the liver or kidney donation will go and prevent that person from getting sick enough to land him or her on the list in the first place. Pre-emptive transplantation, Rodriguez said, also often results in better outcomes.
"It's a life-changing event for both the donor and the recipient," he said. "It's really a gift of life. It's a pleasure for me to be a part of it."
Teo said it makes him very happy to see the Andersons doing so well.
"My life isn't compromised at all," he said, adding that he was grateful to be healthy enough to be considered a match. Blood type and specific anatomical specifications must also be compatible in order to be a match for organ donation.
The donor goes through a minimally invasive laparoscopic nephrectomy, where a healthy kidney is removed within about two to three hours. The recipient is often under anesthesia at the same time, awaiting the organ. Rodriguez said there are three surgeons involved in the transplant, but every case is different.
Teo will have to take it easy for several more weeks and watch what he eats, but is likely to heal quickly. Jason Anderson will be under his nephrologist's watch for years to come, including weekly and monthly blood draws to make sure he's doing well.
The experience brought the two families closer, and the couple says Teo will always "be part of our family."
"We will take care of him forever," Monica Anderson said.
But it means even more than that for Jason Anderson, who said Teo gave him a second chance at life.
"I've thanked him a million times and we've gone to dinner, really forming a stronger relationship," he said. "The truth is, I can never pay him back. I am forever indebted to him for what he has done."1 comment on this story
The dialysis port in Jason Anderson's side has precluded him from swimming or bathing, and it's been five years since he's been on a roller coaster, which was one of his favorite pastimes. He rarely travels, if ever, because of the hassle it is to take along medical equipment. Prior to the transplant, he was constantly fatigued and has been out of work for long periods of time.
"It's been hard," he said. "I'm full of life and vivacious. I can't wait to get back to doing the things I love."