“Twenty years ago, God provided my family a hero. A gift of continued life for our dad.”
— Brenda Kennedy Blankenship
In 1991, Bradley Kennedy was diagnosed with a life-threatening, late-stage liver disease which had scarred and damaged his liver. The liver attempts to repair itself except when scarring has occurred. Bradley was experiencing fatigue, weakness, and weight loss. During the later stages of his illness, he suffered from jaundice, gastrointestinal bleeding, abdominal swelling, and confusion. Bradley was in the fight of his life.
His family doctor in West Virginia told him his only chance for survival was a liver transplant. The liver is an organ which also can be donated by a living donor. He was relieved to know a treatment existed. All he wanted was to be healthy and spend more years with his wife of nearly 60 years, watching his children grow, loving his family, and enjoying his friends. But his relief was short lived when he learned the financial cost associated with this life-saving medical procedure.
It was a financial blow. The treatment came with a healthy price tag. The projected cost of the transplant was $300,000 and he had to show proof he had $15,000 set aside just to cover the cost of immediate, short-term medication which would keep his body from rejecting the new liver. Luckily, he learned, his insurance covered most of the transplant surgery, but Bradley was faced with about $40,000 in deposits and co-pays. He wondered how he could ever afford the out-of-pocket cost to receive this life-saving medical procedure.
Eight years after Bradley was diagnosed, he was placed on the national transplant list. To receive a transplant required Bradley to meet certain eligibility requirements. Other than the liver disease, he had to remain healthy. Additionally, he had to live closer to the transplant center. Fortunately, his daughter lived two and a half hours away from the hospital. Bradley and his wife temporarily relocated from West Virginia to North Carolina and moved in with his daughter.
Serendipity led his daughters to speak with a mentor in their workplace who championed Bradley’s cause. Their mentor referred them to the National Foundation for Transplants in 1999. A fundraising campaign was established where financial contributions could be made in his honor. His beloved daughter, Brenda, served as his campaign chairperson. Almost immediately, after learning of Bradley’s predicament, there was an outpouring of love and support from his local community as peopled rushed to make sizeable contributions in his honor. Their mentor, and his wife, donated half of the funds to cover his out-of-pocket cost. Soon, his campaign had raised enough for the hospital deposit and immediate anti-rejection medication needed and other prescription drugs. All that remained was to wait for an organ donor match.
On October 17, 2001, Bradley learned he had been moved up on the national transplant waiting list. On November 4, 2001, he received the call. His prayers had been answered. Everything had lined up for this moment. Even his transplant doctor said he knew he had to do Bradley’s surgery as soon as he saw his name. He explained how he and his daughter shared part of Bradley’s full name.
Bradley was successfully transplanted in November 2001 at Duke University Hospital Transplant Center. His transplant team told him to expect 10 years from his transplanted liver. Since then, Bradley has beaten prostate cancer and this year celebrates his 20th year liver transplant anniversary. After the transplant, Bradley and his wife permanently relocated to be near Bradley’s family and doctors in North Carolina.
During the last 20 years, Bradley watched his family grow, saw grandchildren off to proms and college, took family vacations, enjoyed holidays, and even became a great-grandfather. Each day is a new day for Bradley filled with thanksgiving and joy. Ten years became twenty years and he’s looking forward to reaching the next milestone. On this 20th anniversary, Bradley and his family wish to express their sincere gratitude to everyone who helped with his transplant success.
National Foundation for Transplants’ mission is to make possible for everyone to receive a life-saving transplant. It is our goal to help patients during their most difficult times get to their most wonderful times. During this holiday season, consider giving the gift of life. Become an organ donor and offer financial support to those who are waiting a second chance at life.