For many years, Gene was a professional bodybuilder and a powerlifter. He didn’t realize that he had polycystic kidney disease, like his father.
The progression of this hereditary disease was slow but relentless. More and more cysts grew in Gene’s kidneys. As the organs filled with fluid, they become larger and larger.
The average kidney is supposed to be the size of your fist, but Gene’s kidneys were each larger than a football—possibly the largest kidneys ever recorded.
“We’re not quite sure how big because I can’t do a full scan properly with dye,” Gene said. “But the guess is that they’re over 10 pounds each or more.”
The larger his kidneys got, the worse they functioned. But Gene didn’t want to end up on dialysis like his father. He decided to seek a kidney transplant. Someone suggested that he go see transplant surgeon Mikel Prieto, MD, at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.
What eventually followed was a marathon 12-hour surgical procedure in which Dr. Prieto removed both of Gene’s massive diseased kidneys, then implanted a healthy kidney from a living donor.
The surgery withdrew at least 19 liters of fluid from Gene's body, and he weighed 50 pounds less after the procedure.
Watch this compelling video from the Mayo Clinic to see the extent of Gene’s disease as well as the complicated surgical procedure that followed, and also who stepped up to the plate to donate a kidney after Gene’s unique recruitment efforts to locate a donor.