Parishioner of St. James seeks kidney for son

By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer

One of Austin Bryan’s goals in life is to hike the Appalachian Trail from beginning to end.

That’s been put on hold for now.

Bryan, 28, has kidney failure and is in need of a transplant.

His father, Rick Bryan, a member of St. James Church, said his son was diagnosed in March and has been on dialysis since April. His son’s life, his father said, has consisted of hospital stays, doctor appointments and visits to government agencies.

Rick Bryan said Austin was ill for several months before he went to the doctor because he didn’t have health insurance.

“When he did go to the doctor, the doctor treated his symptoms, which appeared to be acid reflux,” Bryan said in an interview last week.

The medicine he was given masked the cause of the symptoms while Austin Bryan’s kidneys continued to deteriorate, his father explained. The cause of the kidney failure, Rick Bryan said, could be congenital or simply the effects of a virus, such as strep throat, that went undetected.

The diagnosis came as a shock, Rick Bryan said.

“He was a hiker and biker. We thought he was the picture of health,” he said.

Rick Bryan immediately was tested to see if he was a kidney-transplant match for his son. While he was found to be in good health, his blood-type was A-positive, not the same as his son’s. His wife’s kidney function was not strong enough. And both of the other two Bryan children were not a good match, either.

Austin Bryan, who was hesitant to be interviewed for this article and reluctant to have his photograph used for this story, was placed on the national transplant list Sept. 25. The family does not know where he is on the list.

The ideal situation is for Austin Bryan to receive a live kidney from a donor whose blood is O-positive and who has good kidney function.

Rick Bryan said he didn’t want people who are considering donating a kidney to shy away because they aren’t the correct blood type.

“If you want to donate but are not the same blood (type) don’t hesitate,” he said. “You could be a match (for someone else) for the paired donor program.”

The program, administered by the United Network for Organ Sharing, is a transplant option for those who have a willing kidney donor who doesn’t match their transplant requirements. The willing donor’s kidney can be donated to a matching recipient, Bryan explained.

Rick Bryan is involved with the paired donor program and is willing to donate one of his kidneys in exchange for one for his son.

He acknowledged that donating an organ is a huge decision and should be given a great deal of thought. However, he welcomes the notion of someone giving his son “the gift of life,” he said.

Since receiving this devastating news, Rick Bryan said he has received support from local parishes and strangers he’s met along the way. One of those strangers, Tim Clark, owner of Mulligan’s Pub and Grill and Kaelin’s Coffeehouse, allowed Bryan to put up signs in his two businesses.

Clark, who has attended St. Albert the Great Church, knows all about the risks and rewards of organ donation. He donated one of his kidneys to his best friend two years ago this month.

“It’s been a blessing in my life. It was an honor and privilege to donate,” he said.

Clark said he has not experienced any changes in his lifestyle.

“If anyone is thinking about it, I’d be glad to talk to them,” he said. Clark can be reached at Mulligan’s.

Numerous parishes, including St. Brigid, St. James, St. Agnes, St. Francis of Assisi, Holy Spirit, Ascension, Holy Trinity, St. Joseph and St. Margaret Mary churches allowed Bryan to place an announcement in the church bulletin noting his son’s need for a kidney.

Bryan said he’s drawn strength throughout this ordeal by attending weekday Mass at St. James Church.

“I look for answers and wonder why? It’s been a real test of faith. Initially I prayed his kidneys would just jump-start. Now I’m praying for a miracle, for a donor,” he said.

Anyone considering organ donation should contact the transplant program at Jewish Hospital at 587-4990.

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