Third-generation kidney recipient Travis Crittendon gets kidney from cousin Kevin Crittendon
Within most families an inherited trait is benign, such as a distinctive nose or detached earlobes. For one family, the Crittendons/Burggraafs, their inherited trait is polycystic kidney disease. This disease has caused three generations of its family members to seek kidney donations at Mercy Health Kidney Transplant Center.
- The first patient was grandmother Marlys Burggraaf, who received a kidney transplant from a deceased donor in 1991 at Mercy Health. She was kidney #483 in the program.
- The second-generation patient to receive a kidney from a deceased donor was Burggraaf’s daughter, Sharon Crittendon, in January 2014. Sharon was the 2,023rd transplant in the history of Mercy Health Saint Mary’s.
- Fast forward to today: Sharon’s son, Travis Crittendon, 44, received his kidney transplant on Monday, July 17, 2017, making him the third generation to receive a kidney transplant at Mercy Health. Travis was #2,395 in the program.
Due to the extent of his kidney disease, which causes cysts to grow on his kidneys, Travis has had both kidneys removed. To survive, he relied on kidney dialysis, a grueling ritual that he endured three days a week, for four and a half hours at a time. But he had much hope, as he was not waiting on the transplant list for a deceased donor. His cousin, Kevin Crittendon, agreed to donate him his left kidney.
Being the third generation to undergo a kidney transplant, Travis knew what to expect.
“I watched my grandmother, my mom and many of my other family members undergo this same procedure,” said Travis. “I am really excited to get back to my life.”
Once actively playing sports, such as golf, Travis has had to hang up his clubs as he slowly became sicker and sicker. “It’s been hard; I haven’t been able to play golf in five or six years. I would love to just get back to normal. ”
Getting back to normal is something that his mother and his donor cousin Kevin hope for him as well.
“I am super excited for Travis,” Sharon says, whose transplanted kidney from three and a half years ago is still doing very well.
Although his cousin Kevin was a match when he was tested to become a donor, his health excluded him from becoming a donor, as he had kidney stones that were sodium-based. “It was just amazing, when he was called by the Mercy Health Kidney Donor Coordinator to tell him that his health wasn’t where it needed to be to qualify to donate, Kevin immediately asked, ‘What do I have to do to get better, so that I can become a donor?'” recalled Travis.
To get healthy enough, Kevin made a few alterations to his diet, including more fluid intake and less sodium. Within three months, his health had improved to where he could be a kidney donor for his cousin. As a side benefit, he has also lost 13 pounds over the course of the year.
“I’m just really focused on Travis, and his getting better,” said Kevin. “For him to be able to go back to living a normal life, that will just be great.” Although there is always the fear that his kidney may get rejected by Travis’s body, Kevin says he has confidence in the Mercy Health Kidney Transplant Center, given its history and great outcomes.
Described as analytical by his mother, Travis researched into kidney transplant, the process and recovery, and like those before him, also decided on Mercy Health, saying: “Since my mom and all my family has had such good outcomes with their kidneys, I knew I wanted to come to Mercy Health for my transplant.”
Sharon Crittendon’s story
More than 30 years ago, Sharon’s aunt — her mother’s sister — was in need of a kidney transplant, due to the polycystic kidney disease. Sharon decided, “‘Why not me? I can look into becoming a donor.'”
It was discovered through the donor testing that Sharon had also inherited the same kidney disease. This news not only disqualified her from becoming a donor, but would also mean that she would very likely need a kidney transplant in the future.
Years, then decades, passed. Sharon awaited her fate, getting sicker and sicker. She was on dialysis for five and a half years, waiting for a kidney so that she could once again live life.
Finally, that day came in January 2014.
Sharon recalls the early morning that she got exciting news from Mercy Health that she was matched with a deceased donor. “It was 4:30 a.m., but I called all my kids before I drove myself to the hospital. I couldn’t wait to get a new kidney!”
In March 2016, her sister took her on the dream vacation she had been too sick to only be able to dream of: “I wanted to see Mickey Mouse in Disney World.”
Today, Sharon is doing well. Going in for check-ups every six months at the transplant center, Sharon greets people with a smile.
She is so proud and happy for her son, who is finally getting a kidney transplant after nearly two years of being on dialysis.
Sharon’s siblings’ kidney transplants
Sharon’s brother, Jim Burggraaf, received a kidney from a deceased donor in 2001. Jim was #1,036 in the program.
Sharon’s brother, Ron Burggraaf, received a live kidney from his wife, Linda, in 2006. Ron was # 1,400 in the program.
Sharon’s sister, Marvonne Burggraaf, received a live kidney from a friend, Brandi, in December 2014. Marvonne was 2,101 in the program.
Representing the first generation, Marlys Burggraaf was one of eight children, six of whom inherited the kidney disease. Awaiting a kidney donor, Marlys underwent kidney dialysis while holding down a job. “Mom tried the in-home kidney dialysis, but that didn’t work very well,” according to her daughter Sharon. Her family describes her as someone who always took care of herself, in addition to caring for her family.
Finally, after nearly five years of dialysis, Marlys received a deceased donor kidney in 1991, becoming the 493rd transplant recipient at Mercy Health. Her kidney lasted for nearly 20 years, when she needed dialysis again. Marlys passed away in 2011, in her 80s.