Cantu helps father with kidney donation today

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 23, 2001

After seven years of waiting on organ donor lists, Harold Stegall found the solution to his health problems in his own daughter.

Today, Stegall and daughter Renee Cantu will undergo a new medical procedure in which one of Cantu’s kidneys will be removed and transplanted in her father.

The surgery is Stegall’s last hope for a normal life after an arthritic medicine he was prescribed several years ago left his kidneys beyond repair.

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For the last seven years, his name has been on national donor lists, but because he has a rare blood type, no match has become available.

Cantu was ruled out as a possible donor from the start when doctors learned she had undergone bladder surgery as a child and because she was still thinking of having more children.

&uot;They were kind of hesitant I would even be able to do this,&uot; Cantu said.

Despite the medical facts, Stegall said he never considered his only child as a donor because he did not want her to go through the pain he has been accustomed to with his illness.

&uot;I first I didn’t want to do it. I said, ‘no,’&uot; he said, looking at his daughter.

&uot;That’s all he could think about was I would have to go through the same thing,&uot; Cantu said.

&uot;And we probably wouldn’t do it now if it weren’t for this new procedure,&uot; she said.

That new procedure, known as a laparoscopic nephrectomy, was developed by physicians at the University of Maryland in the mid-1990s. It involves making four small incisions between .5 and 1.2 centimeters long in the donor’s abdomen.

Through the incisions – called ports – a camera and instruments are inserted to guide the kidney out of the body, sometimes through the navel.

Once removed, the organ is then immediately transferred to the recipient who is in surgery at the same time.

Advocates of the procedure boast it is less painful, requires a shorter hospital stay and has a more rapid recovery rate than other procedures.

Because of the growing shortage of available organs, transplanting from living donors has become more popular and accepted in the medical realm in the last decade.

Though almost all transplant centers now perform transplants using living donors, the laparoscopic technique is the newest, practiced in only a handful of medical centers throughout the U.S.

Cantu discovered information about the procedure while surfing the Internet one night. She was worried her father, who was sick with the flu at the time, might not recover.

When she typed in &uot;kidney donation&uot; in a search engine, the University of Maryland Web site popped up.

&uot;I called my mother and said I found the answer. And she said ‘to what?’ I said, ‘to Daddy,’&uot; Cantu said.

After contacting the University of Maryland, Cantu learned that a physician who had been a fellow at UM under the procedure was practicing at Tulane.

That sealed it. And with a little convincing to her parents, Cantu and Stegall began the tedious series of tests required to make certain she was a match.

&uot;I don’t think it would have happened if it weren’t meant to happen,&uot; Cantu said. &uot;I mean, I could have sat down in front of that computer that night and not learned a thing.&uot;

With the surgery only a few days away, both Cantu and Stegall said they are anxious but also excited.

If the transplant is successful, and it is almost 97 percent of the time, Stegall will be freed from the medications and dialysis treatments that have restricted him for years.

Three days a week, for four hours at a time, Stegall takes dialysis treatments in Brookhaven. To be closer to the treatment center, he and his wife moved from their long-time home in Natchez to Bude.

But on the days he is not at the treatment center, Stegall is in Natchez, delivering flowers for his daughter’s business, The Flower Station.

&uot;This is what keeps me going good,&uot; he said. &uot;If it weren’t for this, I’d probably be sitting at home.&uot;

Stegall said he looks forward to a life without treatments and doctor’s visits, when he and his wife will finally have a chance to travel and &uot;get back in the backyard.&uot;

And Cantu is grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to her father’s long and healthy life.

&uot;It’s a good feeling,&uot; she said. &uot;In just two weeks after seven years, he’ll have a whole new life.&uot;