The Son Rises to the Occasion
Urbana Athletic Director Kendro Donates a Kidney to Save Father's Life
By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, December 27, 2007; E08
Tom Kendro didn't know what his son was up to.
He didn't know that when nurses were tending to him in an examination room, his son -- Urbana Athletic Director Kevin Kendro -- was on the other side of the door, begging the doctors to take one of his kidneys and give it to his father.
"Even before it was an issue, the son was asking me to do [a transplant] before we were even allowed to do it," said Michael Choi, a physician at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
In 2001, Tom Kendro found out he had idiopathic membranous nephropathy, a rare disorder that results in the dysfunction of the kidneys' filtering system. Little is known about the disorder, which occurs without warning and can result in kidney failure and death.
"I did every test they know of to try to cure it," said Tom Kendro, 63. "I couldn't walk. I was 50 percent, at minimum, weaker than I should be. I was just tired. I couldn't do anything."
In July, both of his kidneys were removed and he was put on dialysis for three months.
"The death rate is much higher with patients on dialysis, no question about it," Choi said.
His name was placed on a regional list for those in need of a transplant and the wait, according to Tom Kendro, could have been up to six years. His son had other ideas.
"I had no idea that Kevin had talked to the doctors behind my back and that he wanted to be the donor," Tom said. "I was concerned with his safety more than anything, and my wife was a banana. Not only did she have me, but now she had him to worry about."
On Sept. 21, doctors at Georgetown University Hospital completed a successful four-hour surgery in which Tom Kendro received a kidney donated by his son.
"Right when they wheeled me back, I wasn't trying to look at him because I could see that he was really upset," Kevin Kendro said. "I was just happy that the day got there."
When the surgery was complete, "The first thing they each asked was how the other one was doing," said Judy Kendro, Tom's wife and Kevin's mother.
Less than a month after the surgery, Kevin Kendro -- one of the youngest ADs in the state at 28 -- was back at work, his BlackBerry buzzing constantly.
In his cramped office, which is decorated with baseball posters and memorabilia, Kevin remembered growing up around sports, remembered all the ground balls he'd taken from his father, how his dad had helped him with his swing and nurtured his talent. Those memories only tell part of the story as to why Kevin volunteered his own kidney for his father.
"He couldn't put his shoes on," Kevin said. "That's the reason that I wanted to do it. I wanted to see him like he used to be."
Sure, the timing wasn't great. The Hawks were in the fourth week of football season and the track, field hockey and volleyball teams had their demands.
"When you are the athletic director, you tend to feel like this is your home," Kevin said, looking around his office. "You want to make sure everything is going well. You live here, basically. It was probably one of our busiest weeks of the year."
In Kevin's absence, the Urbana coaching staff and administration rallied.
Coaches volunteered to pick up some of Kevin's daily duties, which include lining fields, ordering buses, securing officials, scheduling and rescheduling games, ordering equipment, staffing athletic events with game managers and ticket takers, working with boosters, and collecting and reviewing paperwork.
"There was a tremendous outpouring from the community," Urbana girls' basketball coach Chris Krivos said. "They were bringing him food and food to his parents' house in Frederick. There was so much of it, he couldn't even eat it all. He had to bring it into school."
Kevin still is finding letters from students on his desk.
"He was selfless and I think it's incredible how he set an example for the students and teachers to always be giving of yourself," said Urbana senior Allie Taylor, who runs cross-country and plays basketball for the Hawks. "Life isn't just about yourself, it's about how you give of yourself."
Kevin missed a total of eight work days.
"He didn't want to stay away when he had every reason or right to," assistant athletic director Terry Connolly said. "No one would question him being out for two or three weeks and here he is back after one week."
Just seven days after the surgery, Kevin and Tom sneaked into the school's press box to watch the Urbana football team's 28-20 loss to Frederick -- their first outing since the transplant.
"There were a lot of stares at the beginning because what does a guy with one kidney look like?" Krivos said of Kevin. "He came back way too early. He was walking kind of like an old man and everyone knows he is always sprinting from his office to the main office; he's running from his office to the stadium to paint the field. He's always on the go. He was just slow. Everything he did was in slow motion."
Kevin -- a triathlete and marathon runner -- has returned to his training. He plans to run in six events in the new year and already has signed up for the Ironman Florida triathlon, featuring a grueling 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run.
Tom currently takes about 20 medications a day, including anti-rejection medicine, and is being closely monitored by doctors.
He is walking up to three miles a day and has lost much of the 40 pounds of water weight he gained following the transplant.
"What I learned about my dad is how tough he is because he was still trying to do things even when he was sick," Kevin said. "That's been his mentality: You're sick, you still try."
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
The Son Rises to the Occasion
Posted by BJ Koubaroulis... at 7:30 PM