Irving — Some couples are the “perfect match.” They have the same interests, the same goals and dreams, and their personalities complement one another. However, in the case of Ryan and Cné Coone, the phrase “perfect match” took on a whole new meaning when Cné donated one of her kidneys to Ryan.
Ryan works as an emergency department technician at Baylor Scott and White Medical Center in Irving. About around four years ago, he started noticing something did not feel quite right.
“I had what’s called renal insufficiency,” Ryan said. “My renal functions weren’t normal. They were kind of high, not super high, but enough to keep an eye on. Come November of last year, 2018, my bloodwork showed that number had significantly risen.
“I started going into full renal failure in January of this year and had to be admitted and started on dialysis. When we first started treatment at the dialysis center, we went ahead and filled out an application for the kidney transplant list.”
In the state of Texas, the average wait time for a kidney transplant can be anywhere from five to seven years. Knowing this, Ryan was prepared for a long wait, until his wife Cné, a social worker at Parkland Hospital, decided to step in.
“It didn’t dawn on me until we got home,” Cné said. “I know I’ve seen people say they’ve donated to friends and family, so maybe this is something I can do. I asked [Ryan] what he thought about that.
“It was completely up to me, and I thought, ‘I might as well see if it’s a possibility versus being on a list.’”
After a few preliminary tests, Cné learned that she was a “perfect match,” and was chosen to be her husband’s donor. The entire process took only six months from the initial consultation to the operation.
“[Ryan] was positive, he was very optimistic the whole time,” Cné said. “I’m the worrier, so the waiting was really hard. But I really felt that if we were a match, we could do this. So when they told us [we were a match], I though ok, this is what we’re going to do.”
Ryan and Cné first met at Baylor Scott and White Irving, and they have been married for seven years.
“He was already here when I came on as a social worker in 2011,” Cné said. “I worked the 3:30 to midnight shift and met him working in the [emergency department] and started dating, and got married two years later. We knew from the beginning we were a match that way first. We didn’t take very long at all before getting married. We both kind of knew that.”
Dr. Anji Wall, an abdominal transplant surgeon from Baylor University Medical Center Dallas, was one of the surgeons who performed Ryan’s operation.
“Often times, the first person who comes forward and wants to be a donor is a spouse or a family member,” Wall said. “Sometimes that doesn’t work out, because the blood types are not compatible, or there’s a health issue in the donor, or some other reason the anatomy may not be appropriate for kidney donation. But there are also a lot of opportunities [to be a donor]. People will have friends, church members, even anonymous ‘non-directed’ donors volunteer. There are other ways our kidney transplant recipients can have a living donor. It’s not always family.”
Dr. Wall added there are a number of additional benefits from receiving a kidney from a living donor, as opposed to one from a deceased donor.
“Living donation is the quickest and best way to get a kidney transplant,” Wall said. “The time span is much shorter that waiting for a deceased donor. With living donors in general, those kidneys are significantly better than deceased donors, because they come from healthy individuals.
“Obviously, we’re not going to have a donor who has any health problems that might be compromised by doing a kidney donor operation. There’s a very short time period between when the kidney comes out of the donor and goes into the recipient, and minimizing that time also has a significant effect on the kidney working right away.”
The transplant operation took place on July 2 at the Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas with no complications. Both Ryan and Cné have nearly fully recovered, and Ryan expects to return to work later this month.
Ryan’s manager Barbara Klausing, director of emergency services at Baylor Scott and White Irving, said although they are accustomed to seeing transplant cases, it hits a closer to home when it happens to one of their own.
“I think it’s easy for all of us who don’t have health problems to take it for granted when you get up every day and that’s just the way life is,” Klausing said. “When you work in healthcare, it kind of keeps it in perspective, because you see the struggles people go through. Yet, when it hits one of your family, and we’re kind of a work family here, it really hit home and had an impact on everyone.
“Ryan, he did stay positive, but I could see it took a toll to come and work full time and keep up with the dialysis. I don’t know many other people could do it, but you also hear of people being on the transplant list for years and years. And to see the struggle just in the six months that he had to wait for the transplant, I can’t imagine the lives of all those others who are waiting.”
As for Ryan and Cné, they said the experience has brought them closer together as a couple.
“He’s helped me be a little more optimistic, think more positively, calm down the worry a little bit,” Cné said. “But he never missed a beat. I mean, he never got down about it or depressed about it. Even when he was on dialysis he was the same old Ryan. I don’t think I would have been that way.”
“I told myself when all this started, I’m not going to be one of those patients who just gives up and has everybody work for me and feel sorry for me,” Ryan said. “I just I couldn’t do that, so I just kind of stayed normal as much as I could.”