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
Realizing that dialysis was only a short-term solution, Jerry
was placed on the transplant waitlist at UPMC. Though he knew living-donation
was 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
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
“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.”