Elgin man set to undergo fourth kidney transplant at Mayo Clinic Wednesday
By Mike Danahey email@example.com @DanaheyECN on Twitter August 27, 2013 3:22PM
Peter Giannaris, 38, of Elgin is at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, where he is scheduled to receive his fourth kidney transplant Wednesday. | Submitted
Updated: September 29, 2013 6:45AM
ELGIN — Peter Giannaris of Elgin is looking forward to being able to do something he hasn’t done in 12 years that most of us see as a chore and take for granted.
“My buddies joke when they have to (urinate) — sometimes on the golf course — and kid that they have to go again. I say back, ‘I’ll trade you.’ They don’t realize it’s something special,” Giannaris said Tuesday afternoon.
Giannaris, 38, has polycystic kidney disease. The Mayo Clinic website explains the condition “is an inherited disorder in which clusters of noncancerous, fluid-filled sacs (cysts) develop within the kidneys ... (and) can cause cysts to develop elsewhere in the body, too. The disease causes a variety of serious complications.”
So Wednesday morning, Giannaris is set to undergo his fourth kidney transplant after living the past 12 years on dialysis, three times a week, 12 total hours a week.
Giannaris lives in the Century Oaks subdivision on the city’s northwest side and had been a manager at Paul’s Restaurant in Elgin. For the past year or so, he’s been taking the five-hour drive up to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., so often that it didn’t allow him to continue working.
At Mayo, Giannaris has been part of a clinical trial and said a pharmaceutical company has been paying for his care. The clinic’s transplant center is one of the few in the United States that handles transplants for “highly sensitized” patients such as Giannaris who have immune systems that are very prone to rejecting a transplanted organ.
People such as Giannaris are less likely to find a donor who will be a fit for their situation. As such, according to the Mayo Clinic, about 9,000 of the 60,000 people on the national waiting list for kidneys find themselves in straits similar to Giannaris’.
Dr. Mark Stegall is to perform the three-to-four-hour surgery Wednesday. The Mayo Clinic Transplant Center has treated about 300 people in the same condition as Giannaris’ over the course of the last 10 years, Stegall said.
“This has been a very gratifying experience, and Pete is very deserving,” Stegall said.
The method for Giannaris’ treatment involves a plasma exchange and new medicines that control antibody production or alter its impact on the transplant. Giannaris said he has been taking the medicines prior to the surgery, will take them again afterward and will be on a regimen for at least a year.
The plasma exchange means removing antibodies that might lead to organ rejection from his blood, Giannaris said. Another procedure he would be getting Tuesday in advance of surgery would put back all antibodies except the ones that might lead to such a problem.
‘A gift of life’
Stegall said that while things have improved regarding the longevity of transplanted organs, they still tend to wear out over time. A good many people who have transplants develop antibodies to the tissue type, Stegall said.
Giannaris received a kidney from his mother when he was 9, from his father when he was a teenager and from a deceased donor when he was 24. An anonymous Good Samaritan is donating the kidney Giannaris is set to receive Wednesday.
“What do you say to someone like that? You hug them and say thank you, thank you, thank you. This truly is a gift of life,” Giannaris said.
He intends to inquire in six months if that person would like to get in contact. And he urged people to go to the donatelife.net website to become organ donors themselves.
Giannaris said he had been tired but became energized upon hearing Tuesday that everything was a go for Wednesday.
“I feel on top of the world, like I could run the Chicago Marathon,” he said.
Giannaris is looking forward to seeing the video Mayo is making about the project and intends to update friends and family on Facebook on Wednesday just before heading into the operating room.
“That way I can see all the posts and well-wishes when I get back to my room,” he said.
Giannaris is expected to be in the hospital for four to seven days, then will stay at the Gift of Life Transplant House in Rochester as he recovers before heading back to Elgin. He picks up his the $30-a-day cost for lodging himself.
“It has been a little tough financially, but you do what you have to do,” Giannaris said.