Randy Renard gave life to his daughter, Autumn, 24 years ago.
Now he's offering her a second chance at life.
"It's kind of like he brought me into the world, and now he's helping me stay in the world," Autumn said.
Randy, of Penn Township, Snyder County, will undergo surgery Tuesday to donate a kidney to his daughter, who suffers from olieomeganephrosis -- an extremely rare kidney disease, discovered in 1963, that is most prevalent in French and Finnish populations.
Autumn's mother, Carol Renard, of White Deer, said only about 5 to 10 percent of Americans with kidney disease have olieomeganephrosis.
Autumn, of Northumberland, was born with small kidneys, but the organs still produce large nephrons, the functional unit of the kidney that eliminates toxins.
The average person has 1 million nephrons, Carol said, and Autumn has twice that number.
Because her kidneys are constantly overworking, the genetic disorder has caused both of Autumn's kidneys to begin to fail.
"There is a lot of French ancestry on her father's side," Carol said, "... but in her situation, (doctors) don't know what caused it."
Although she was born with the disease, it wasn't discovered until Autumn was 17.
A competition and high school cheerleader at Selinsgrove, Autumn was attempting a stunt at a basketball game when the girls on the squad fell, landing on the gym floor. She was taken to a local hospital for a checkup when doctors discovered an abnormality in her CAT scan.
"We're very lucky they found it," Carol said. "It's a silent disease."
A perfect match
Randy, 54, said he needed only one reason to get tested in July to see if his kidney would be a match for Autumn.
"I'm her dad," he said.
Autumn had been on a donor list for more than a year, and approached her father and asked if he wanted to be tested. Randy said he willingly agreed.
"I told her: I love you with all my heart. I want to see you live. I want to be a granddad,'" he said. "I just stepped up to the plate. Because I'm a French descendent, I thought I'd be a good chance."
Autumn said only two individuals got tested to see if they were a match -- Randy and her fiance, Steve Gulliver, of Northumberland.
While Gulliver was eliminated as a possible donor early, Randy was urged not to proceed because of his age and the blood pressure medication he was on.
He continued, anyway, and went through an entire process, ultimately discovering he was the perfect match.
"I thought it was great, then I got to thinking, and I was scared," he said. "The typical reactions."
Randy said a medical official told him a number of parents don't offer organs to their children.
"I think self-preservation comes into play," Randy said. "... A lot think they would, but when confronted with the decision, and it becomes a reality, more often they back away. I think instinctive natural survival kicks in."
Upon hearing the positive outcome of her father's tests, Autumn felt mixed emotions.
"I was in shock when he said he was a perfect match," she said. "I was like, Wow, I'm going to get a kidney.' But then I started to worry. We're really close, and I just didn't want anything to happen to him."
Most kidney donors need not worry about their health and longevity, said Dr. Hassan N. Ibrahim, of the University of Minnesota Medical School, whose study on the topic was published in a January issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Ibrahim and his colleagues studied the outcome of nearly 3,700 people who donated kidneys between 1963 and 2007. Kidney donors, they found, have a normal life span compared with the general population.
The United Network for Organ Sharing reports that kidneys are the most commonly transplanted organ in the United States. Almost 8,900 transplants were performed in 2008, with almost 5,000 of the kidneys coming from living donors.
About 350,000 Americans suffer from end-stage kidney disease, the National Kidney Foundation estimates, and 67,000 of them die each year without making it onto the waiting list for transplants, which in January had 78,210 requests.
The United Network for Organ Sharing says the wait for a donor is about five to seven years, which is longer than most patients can survive.
Dialysis impacts life
Autumn has undergone four treatments of dialysis a day for the past 16 months.
The process takes 30 minutes, she said, but she can perform it anywhere she wants -- ranging from at home to driving in a car.
The idea of never having to do it again thrills her.
"I'm really happy about it," she said. "It's really impacted my life. It's time-consuming. I'm more sick than normal. I can't be around a lot of things. Sometimes I have to do treatments in the car or take them with me wherever I'm at. It has impacted me, but I haven't let it bring me down."
Surgery is Tuesday
The surgery is scheduled for Tuesday at Hershey Medical Center.
For Randy, the procedure will take about three to four hours, with a recovery time of about four to six hours.
He said he hopes to be out of bed and walking that same day.
The entire recovery is about six to eight weeks, he said. He hopes to be back at work -- as a salesman and a professional singer -- within two weeks, if he's feeling OK.
Autumn's surgery will take about two to four hours, she said.
She is on disability, but recently graduated from Empire Beauty School. She hopes to one day open her own shop.
The surgery, which is covered by insurance, can be as expensive as $300,000.
Carol said Autumn's current medication is about $3,000 a month, including some for anemia and a bloodclotting disorder she also has.
With the surgery near, Randy said he is experiencing an array of emotions.
"Excitement, nervous, scared, sleepless nights," he said. "At the end of the day, I'm more excited now the closer that it gets to just have it done so that we can both move on with our lives together and personally."
Autumn said she is extremely appreciative of her father but worried at the same time, just like her mother, who said she is very worried about her and Randy's only child.
"My way of dealing is not concentrating on her that much, that will get me worked up," she said. "I know I need to be stable and all together for the day of the surgery. Of course I'm worried, but this surgery will give her the quality of life that is so much better."
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Randy Renard gave life to his daughter, Autumn, 24 years ago.