When Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson gets his new kidney Wednesday, he can expect a two- to three-hour operation, six weeks or so recuperating and — if all goes well — years of good health.
“Most of our patients are able to go back to work, do what they were doing before they got sick and, in fact, their quality of life will be much better,” said Dr. John Fung, director of the University of Chicago Medicine Transplantation Institute, which performs about 100 kidney transplants annually.
Johnson’s surgery is planned for Wednesday at Rush University Medical Center, where he’ll be receiving a kidney from his 25-year-old son, Daniel.
Johnson has a number of things going for him, including the fact that he’s getting a young kidney from a donor who is genetically similar. And because the kidney is coming from a living donor, it won’t have spent time potentially deteriorating in an “ice bucket,” Fung said.
“The organ is pristine, it lasts longer and the rejection rates are low,” Fung said.
Johnson is also benefitting from the advances in medicine since Fung began practicing four decades ago.
“We know how to diagnose rejection better, we can treat it better and know much more about the management of . . . diseases in general,” Fung said.
Typically, the survival rate after one year is 95 percent, Fung said. And if the patient survives the first year, there’s a 50 percent chance the kidney will still be working 10 years later, he said. That jumps to 66 percent after 10 years if the kidney comes from a living donor, Fung said.
“It’s not unusual to see patients 40 or 50 years out after their kidney transplant,” Fung said.
One man died two years ago after undergoing a kidney transplant at the University of Colorado 50 years earlier.
“He actually outlived the doctor who put it in him,” Fung said.
The most common cause of kidney failure after a transplant is the death of the patient. That’s because most patients are typically 50 or older when they receive their kidney, Fung said. The second most common cause of failure is when the body rejects the kidney. That’s why it’s important for patients to faithfully take all prescribed medications, Fung said.
To get the most out of his new kidney, Chicago’s top cop will need to pay close attention to his health. Initially, he’ll likely be taking eight to 10 medicines — in part to stave off potential infections. After the first year, it will be closer to three or four, Fung said.
Keeping his weight down will also help. Johnson, who lost 50 pounds ahead of his surgery, said he has bought a top treadmill and is looking forward to exercising.