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Published: Sunday, 12/12/2004

Dad gives daughter gift of life

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Gary Jones, right, watches as his daughter, Carrie, finds veins for a pretend blood draw on her brother Jerry's arm. Gary Jones, right, watches as his daughter, Carrie, finds veins for a pretend blood draw on her brother Jerry's arm.
KING / BLADE Enlarge

LIMA, Ohio - It may not seem extraordinary that Gary Jones gave his young daughter a kidney.

Medically fragile since birth, 3 1/2-year-old Carrie Jones had been on dialysis for more than a year, and tests showed the father and daughter were a near-perfect match for the badly needed organ transplant.

What is extraordinary is that Mr. Jones and his wife, Mary, adopted Carrie.

"I knew I was going to be a match before I even got tested. I just had this feeling," said Mr. Jones, who has worked as a dispatcher and hostage negotiator for the Allen County Sheriff's Office for 17 years. "I wanted to do it. My biggest question was would I be able to do the same things as before?"

Last year, 791 biological parents gave their children kidneys in the United States, according to the United Network on Organ Sharing.

The organization has never kept track - or heard - of an adoptive parent serving as the donor, said spokesman Annie Moore.

"There have been instances where family members are tested for a loved one and a friend is actually a better match. There have been those cases," Ms. Moore said. "When you have such a perfect match, you have better outcomes in the long run. That's a great story. It really is."

Mr. Jones, 41, said he was scared but knew it was the right thing to do.

"I thought if someone was going to give her a kidney, I wanted it to be someone we knew," he said. "They check for obesity, high blood pressure, whether you're an alcoholic. With a cadaver kidney, it could be anyone. You don't know."

Born a month premature, Carrie was deemed a failure-to-thrive baby and given little hope for survival. Two months later, the Joneses took her home from Columbus Children's Hospital, carting a heart monitor and oxygen tank. Mrs. Jones, who once hated the thought of getting a shot, learned how to give Carrie shots three times a week to bolster her red blood cell count.

In the next few years, Carrie was in and out of Children's Hospital, and each time, the Joneses learned her kidneys were functioning less. In March, 2003, she began dialysis - a treatment she received at home 10 hours a night while she slept.

"She's been through a lot," her father said softly.

His boss, Allen County Sheriff Dan Beck, said Mr. Jones' gift of life came as no surprise to him. He called him "salt of the earth."

When the Joneses married 18 years ago, Mrs. Jones was a young widow with twin sons, Harry and Larry. Mr. Jones later adopted her sons, now 23, and together the Joneses adopted their now 12-year-old son, Jerry, at birth.

They became foster parents and adopted the first child who came into their home, their now 8-year-old son, Perry. A few years later, they did not hesitate to take Carrie into their home. She is Perry's half-sister and the daughter Mrs. Jones had longed for.

They adopted Carrie in October, 2003, and soon after learned she had Bardet-Biedl Syndrome, a rare condition typified by obesity, physical and developmental delays, and an extra toe on each foot. The syndrome could eventually cause Carrie to go blind, and she already is showing signs of night blindness.

It's apparent the Joneses and their four sons love Carrie just the way she is.

"The transplant has helped her energy level," Mrs. Jones said. "She was always yellow, jaundiced before. After her surgery I thought she had a fever because she had color in her cheeks for the first time. It was so awesome."

The Joneses are well aware of the implications of their daughter's medical condition, but they're devoted to her care and love her unconditionally. Her prognosis is not a top concern.

"It doesn't matter to me," Mrs. Jones said simply. "We've come to grips with it, and we don't care what it means."

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.



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