Damian Paige believes in what can be called “kidney karma.”
The Mesa man was lucky enough to get a matching donor when he needed a kidney – 25 years after he donated one of his own to help a friend.
“It’s like a good deed that came back around,” he said. “I’m thankful for it.”
He said the doctors who treated him had never heard of someone who donated a kidney later being an organ recipient.
“It’s a rare club,” Paige said with a chuckle.
Now 47, Paige was living in Los Angeles and just entering adulthood when he became a friend indeed to someone who needed a kidney.
“I made decisions based on understanding of what dialysis patients go through. I just wanted to help a friend,” he said.
Donating a kidney in 1997 was a major operation: “They cut me almost in half,” he said.
But, after three months, he had a full recovery.
Years later, he moved to Mesa and settled down with his wife, Lisa, a compliance analyst at Dignity Health.
A few years ago, Damian went to what he figured would be a routine physical – and found out his remaining kidney was not functioning properly.
As it turned out, he needed the dialysis treatment he saved his friend from.
If he had both the kidneys he was born with, a dysfunctional one probably would not have been a big deal.
Did Paige come to regret donating one of his kidneys?
“I did reflect on it,” he said. “I thought about my choices … But I was glad to do what I did. I saved somebody’s life.”
In 2019, there were 23,000 kidney transplants in the country - but Arizona’s waiting list alone for kidney transplants is in the thousands.
Five months ago, the Paiges got the phone call they were waiting for: After an organ donor passed away, a kidney was available for Damian.
“When we got the call it was about 8 p.m.,” Lisa Paige said. “Damian was in surgery by 7 a.m. — the next day.”
Thus, Paige became the 100th patient to receive a life-changing kidney transplant at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix.
He awoke from surgery feeling pretty good, all things considered. “I know for sure I was thirsty. I was really thirsty from all the medications. I was a little sore,” he said.
But the laparoscopic procedure was much less painless than his donation procedure: “I was much more sore then. A lot more stitches going across my body.”
A few months after receiving the kidney, “I’m feeling like myself.”
The biggest adjustment, he said, is taking 14 medications, every day. “It’s long term — for the rest of my life.”
He feels good enough to resume computer science studies at Rio Salado College. “I’ve always worked with computers as a technician. I just never pursued a degree in it,” he said.
Damian and Lisa enjoy walks around their East Mesa neighborhood, which they have no plans of leaving.
“It’s beautiful, where would you go?” Lisa said, with a laugh.
“No tornadoes,” Damian chimed in.
“No earthquakes,” Lisa added.
“No volcanoes,” Damian said.
But, fortunately, plenty of karma.
To learn about becoming an organ donor, visit dnaz.org.