Kidney and liver transplants spur man’s change of heart
Ex-executive is out to enroll 1,000 new organ and tissue donors|
Steve Baum, who had polycystic kidney disease and had a kidney and liver transplant, will be at the Walk for PKD at River Park in Brentwood. / Jeanne Reasonover / The Tennessean
Vicky Travis | The Tennessean
(Walk for PKD starts at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at River Park, off Concord Road in Brentwood (across from library.) To donate or learn more, go to www.pkdcure.org.)
And he couldn’t be happier.
Baum had a kidney and liver transplant on Nov. 11, 2009, after a nine-year stretch in which polycystic kidney disease deteriorated his health. When he and his wife got the call that every person on a transplant list waits for, he was ready for anything. Even death.
“At that point, I’d stopped praying for health,” Baum says. “I prayed for his will to be done.”
Since surgery, Baum’s health has rebounded and goals were reawakened.
“You’ll find that transplant recipients are the most grateful people,” he says. “Words can’t describe it. It’s so deep in your gut.”
His constant gratitude for a second shot at life means paying it forward and living to the fullest, which Baum does on a daily basis. He’s spoken at Rotary clubs and to whomever will listen about organ donation; he’s run two half-marathons and won three bronze medals in this year’s Tennessee Senior Olympics. He’s writing a book.
And Saturday morning, he and his wife, Anne, will be cheering on walkers at the annual Walk for PKD at River Park in Brentwood, across from the Brentwood Library. They’ll also be signing up organ donors. Goal-oriented Baum has signed up 241 donors and says he won’t stop until he signs up 1,000.
Disease kills slowly
PKD, which sapped Baum’s energy and squeezed life out of his kidneys, is incurable. Treatment in its late stages is left to dialysis and transplants. It’s a disease, Baum says, that is often hidden and that many don’t know they have.
PKD is often predictable. The first sign, typically showing in the 30s, is often high blood pressure. Then, over the next 25 years, cysts grow and eventually choke the kidneys. Baum also had cysts on his liver, which did the same thing.
“Chronic disease takes your motor away,” he says.
By the time of his surgery, his diseased kidney weighed 9 pounds; his diseased liver weighed 30 pounds.
He was 54 and says he felt like he was 74. These days he says he feels like a 30-something. “I have tremendous energy now.”
PKD runs in families.
“None of the Baum men made it past 70,” he says. “I intend to change that.”
Support grows; cure remains elusive
Carol Boeing, whose father died of the disease, was diagnosed at 28. She had a kidney transplant Nov. 29, 2008.
“It was Thanksgiving weekend,” she says. “It was right when I needed it.”
Like Baum, the transplant changed her life.
Now 66, Boeing leads Nashville’s PKD Foundation chapter and heads up the annual walk, now in its fifth year.
“The biggest thing I want is to find a treatment and cure,” she says. “That comes from raising money.”
The chapter raised $51,000 for the PKD Foundation last year.
Although I have heard the story a number of times from different voices, it never stops me from counting my blessings. I suffer from both bi-polar and anxiety disorders. I had lost track of my High School friend Steve and was unaware of his situation. His story both inspired and shamed me.
Thanks in great part to Steve’s story and the many stories I’ve heard via Steve, I completed my education and now work with others who have walked my walk.
Thank you to all the courageous people I’ve learned of and from. And Steve, I am so proud and thankful to be able to call you friend