My time is mine again

My time is mine again

For almost a decade, Bob Biss would rise at 4 a.m. several days a week to get ready for his 5:30 a.m. dialysis treatment.

“I wanted to get the day started and get it over with,” Biss said.

But after a four-hour session, he felt drained.

“It’s like being in college after a double over-nighter,” said the 69-year-old career coach from suburban Wilmington.

After a nap, he would discover half the day had slipped away.

“I figured dialysis cost me about 30 hours a week,” he said.

Before a persistent blockage caused by an enlarged prostate damaged his kidneys, Biss led an active life. At first, he was bothered at relying on dialysis to perform the kidney’s natural function of removing impurities from his blood.

“I had the biggest pity party,” he said. “I thought they would be sticking that needle in my arm for the rest of my life.”

Biss tried not to let kidney disease rule his life. He continued to travel to visit family members, making arrangements for treatment wherever he went.

“I’ve been dialyzed in Florida, Washington State and Las Vegas,” he said.

His nephrologist suggested he get on the transplant list. Biss agreed that was a good idea and immediately signed up.

A living donor would have allowed him to bypass the long waiting list for deceased donors.

S. John Swanson III, M.D.
S. John Swanson III, M.D.

“The average wait for a deceased donor is more than five years,” says S. John Swanson III, M.D., chief of Transplant Surgery at Christiana Care. “Living donors also offer other advantages — but not everyone has access to a live donor.”

Biss has two adult children. But he would not ask either to donate a kidney.

“I wouldn’t consider asking my daughter, who has two young babies,” he said. “I wouldn’t ask my son because I worried that it would interfere with his career in the Marine Corps.”

He had been on the list for six years when he got his first offer. But the kidney wound up going to another patient who was a better match.

Over the next 12 months, he received calls about deceased donors seven more times. But an ideal fit remained elusive.

“Either I wasn’t a good candidate, or I didn’t like the history of the donor, so I turned it down,” he said.

After nine calls and seven years, everything fell into place. Biss shared the good news on his Facebook page.

“It was a perfect match for me, which is what I had been waiting for,” he said.

Dr. Swanson performed the transplant on Oct. 29. 2013.

Before and after his transplant, the team at Christiana Care explained his care and medications. A specially trained visiting nurse came to his home during his recovery.

“They could not have treated me better if I was a member of their own family,” he said. “They treat you like you’re the only person they are looking after.”

He now has monthly appointments to infuse anti-rejection drugs rather than dialysis three times a week.

Biss has put his reclaimed time to work, sharing his success with coaching clients who are facing obstacles in life. He walks in his neighborhood every day.

“I absorb nutrients better, so I’ve put on a bit of weight,” he said. “The good part is that I now have the energy to exercise.”