My wife and I met in 2005, about a year after I received a kidney transplant. We were married June 9, 2006, on what would have been my parent’s 40th anniversary.
Around Christmas 2008, I began to feel like I was coming down with something, like the flu. I figured I would fight it off. But I still felt under the weather when I went back to Fresno City College in January 2009. I went to the emergency room. They did all the lab tests and they said I had high levels of potassium and impaired kidney function.
The doctors told me they could give me medicine to try to bring my kidney function back or I could get a Nephrectomy (an operation to remove his kidney). They told me without doing something, my kidney could explode.
My wife and I prayed about, and we decided to have the transplanted kidney removed. The doctor described my kidney as being "very angry looking" after removing it. I was told the medication that would be used was very powerful and feared for my life if the medication intervention did not work. I was not given good odds on saving the kidney from rejection, or long term success if the rejection was halted.
So I started dialysis again-- three days a week, three and a half hours each treatment. My wife would pack my lunch. I would pick her up from work and we would go to dialysis and sit around, watch TV and talk. We talked about the paired donation program. You get on the list (for a kidney transplant) and your loved one agrees to donate a kidney. (His wife was not a match for JePahl).
She did the research. She told me, ‘Before you say No, I want you to read this.’ She was in perfect health and had never had any surgery. I didn’t want her to through the pain. She said, ‘This is why we are married. God brought us together. I told I wanted her healthy. I could wait. She said but ‘I cannot wait.’
We signed up for two different paired donor programs. On Sept. 17, 2010, we got the call the National Kidney Registry had found a kidney at UC Davis.
On Sept. 27, 2010, I had the surgery there. My kidney kicked in right on the operating table. On Sept. 29, my wife, who was in room around the corner from me, had the operation to donate her kidney. Her donation went to someone in Pennsylvania.
In October, we arranged to meet the donor of my kidney. She is a 23-year-old Hispanic woman. She’s also a paired donor. She donated on behalf of her mother. We hit it off right away and still stay in touch. I had earlier also met the family of my first donor – a third cousin – and still stay in touch with his mother.
People look at me and don’t know about my transplants. I am the best promotion for why people should sign up to be donor. People who need an organ hope for an opportunity to improve the quality of their lives. Not a day goes by that I do not think about my first and second organ donor.
JePahl is attending the University of Phoenix and expects to graduate in spring 2014. His major is business and his interest is in working with non-profit organizations. He’s active in his church and community and promotes the cause of organ donation as well as supporting people undergoing dialysis.
On January 1st, 2014, JePahl will be a rider on the Donate Life float in the Rose Parade. His wife LaKishia will also take part in the parade as a Living Donor and will lead the float along with others who have unselfishly given the gift of life through living donation.