When LaGrange College classes began on Wednesday with students coming back to the hill, it was a return of sorts for Quincy Brown too.
Brown, vice president for spiritual life and church relations, is back at the school now after a kidney transplant on July 2.
It was his second transplant since 2005.
“It gives you a different spin on living,” Brown said of his second go-round as a kidney recipient. “I literally have a new lease on life. People don’t get second chances, and I’ve had two second chances.”
Brown got his first transplant on Dec. 12, 2005, as a result of long-term undiagnosed high blood pressure. The transplant came from a living donor, a friend of Brown’s and mother of two now-LaGrange College alumni, Lesley Baskette. The two met when Baskette, who then worked with the Georgia United Methodist Commission on Higher Education and Campus Ministry, served on a finance committee together.
“We will be connected forever,” Brown said, about that first transplant. The operation came after Brown became sick in 2004 and found out his kidneys were failing. He started dialysis. He had four relatives match for a transplant but get rejected for other reasons. A normal wait for a kidney is about five years.
After the first transplant, things were fine. Brown faithfully took his anti-rejection medicine, and, although not a health nut, watched his diet.
“Eating is a social thing,” he said, especially in the South.
“It becomes a comfort. We eat at meetings. We eat a lot of fast food. It’s relational,” he said. “At one point, that may not have been a bad thing, but we’ve become so sedentary. We don’t exercise.”
In April 2008, Brown began to reject his new kidney.
“Rejection is really the body doing what it’s supposed to do,” he said. “There is a balance between taking enough anti-rejection medication so that your body will accept the kidney and not taking so much that your entire immune system shuts down and you’re susceptible to everything.”
In a new round of tests, his creatinine – a measure of the waste product in the kidney – was 8. A creatinine level for a normal male is 1.3.
Brown went back on dialysis in March 2011.
“Initially I blamed myself,” he said. “I had let folks down. I couldn’t get it right.”
To make it worse, this time he knew all too well the road he faced.
“You do everything you can to avoid it when you know the road is inevitable,” he said. “But going down that road beats the alternative. I have too much to do. I still have something to offer the world.
“It still was an emotional roller coaster. There are many nights you struggle when your body decides to revolt on you. A transplant is just a treatment. There’s no cure for chronic kidney disease.”
He got the call July 1 while eating lunch with family at Longhorn steakhouse. He and his wife caught a plane to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla. He had a new kidney late that night, this time from a deceased, anonymous donor.
“I’m a clergy and I’m always telling folks, ‘Jesus died for you,’” he said. “But to know that someone died so I could have this kidney, it makes it more personal. I am filled with overwhelming gratitude.”
Brown is filled with gratitude and praise for his medical team – in LaGrange and in Birmingham, Ala., where he got his first transplant and at the Mayo Clinic. He also is thankful for his support system and encourages others who are facing a medical crisis to find their own team of support.
“I am not a health nut, but I take care of my body and I go to the doctor,” he said. “As a patient, I take charge and ask questions and I have a support system. You need to find a rope to cling to. When you go through something like this privately, you don’t allow people to bless you.”
Brown now has four kidneys, joking that his MRI is interesting “because I am an interesting person.” It does more damage to take organs out than put them in, so Brown has his original two kidneys and both transplanted kidneys.
He doesn’t worry about the odds that he someday may need a fifth.
“There’s a chance of that, but there’s also a chance I could be walking down Broad Street and get sideswiped by a car,” he said. “You can’t worry about those things.”