By Mary O’KEEFE
Fathers raise their children in the hope they will grow to be giving, compassionate and caring adults who will sacrifice for others. Well, Felix Pesa is a dad that has proof that all five of his boys have those traits because all five were willing to donate to their dad a life saving kidney, a Father’s Day gift he will never forget.
“[Felix] had kidney failure,” said Dr. David Golbfard, surgical director of the kidney transplant program at Cleveland Clinic who performed the surgery. Felix had retired to Youngstown, Ohio.
The doctor explained that Felix had a progressive kidney disease and although he was 74 years old he was a strong candidate for transplant.
“Age is not the only issue. We look at how robust [the patient] is and other physiological parameters,” he said.
Felix’s condition had deteriorated to the point where without a transplant he would have been placed on dialysis that would shortened his life expectancy. Felix could have been placed on a transplant list or find a family member who was willing to be a donor and was compatible.
Tom Pesa, a La Crescenta resident, and his four brothers found out their father was suffering from kidney failure.
“It was back in October the word came through the family [about Dad’s condition],” Tom said.
Felix never directly asked any of his sons to be a donor but once they found out, all five brothers did not hesitate to volunteer to help their father.
Two brothers, Tom and David, out of the five were found to be compatible.
The two spoke at length about which one would donate. They also spoke to their family about what to expect since the surgery and recovery would affect everyone.
Tom said he spoke to his wife, Annmarie a teacher at Valley View Elementary about the risks and the recovery.
“You do have a family involved that you are committed to,” Tom said.
It did not take any convincing however Annmarie’s reaction to help was as immediate as Tom’s.
“In the end it was really a virtual toss of a coin,” Tom said of which brother would donate.
Once the decision was made Tom went through a series of test and found he had to loose weight and exercise before the surgery.
“We are thankful that [La Crescenta] lends itself to a healthy lifestyle,” Tom said.
He went on long bike rides and shopped at the Harvest Market in Montrose for fresh fruits and vegetables. He lost weight and became stronger everyday in preparation for the surgery. The need to be healthy for his father was a great motivator.
“I think my dad was happy that I was [exercising and] getting healthy for the surgery,” Tom said.
Finally June 11, the day of the surgery had arrived.
“[It] was surreal. I had been waiting for this day to come for so long,” Tom said.
The surgery lasted about six hours. Doctors had prepared Tom and his father on what to expect the moments and days after the surgery.
“My recovery was more cut and dry. [The doctor] said you are going to feel like a truck hit you the day after the surgery. And I did. But I have been feeling better everyday. My dad’s betterment was immediate,” Tom said.
Golbfard agreed that Felix showed instant improvement after the surgery.
“The kidney began functioning once it was implanted,” he said.
Golbfard added the chance for rejection of the kidney is a risk within the first six months but Felix had shown remarkable improvement and with the help of medication the risk of rejection can be suppressed.
“Obviously Felix was thrilled but groggy right after the surgery. By the fourth day he went home from the hospital he was feeling [much better],” Golbfard said.
“[Dad’s] condition was at the crossroads, he needed this kidney or dialysis but now there is no doubt that his energy has returned he is not as lethargic. The condition of his skin is better, he used to bruise easily,” Tom said.
The fact that all of this happened so close to Father’s Day has not been lost on either Tom or his family.
“He can’t image getting anything more than this gift and the love that comes with it,” Tom said.
Tom who has won two Primetime Emmys for sound mixing will soon be back at home and back at work. He wanted readers to know how important it was to be a donor.
Golbfard performs about 161 kidney transplants a year. He said there are about 6,000 people a year throughout the country that donate a kidney.
“To see how sick someone is and how this [new kidney] can improve their life is [remarkable],” he said.
He added those willing to be donors have decreased in recent years and he wanted people to know how this type of surgery can change a life dramatically.