Ken and Frank's living kidney donation story.

Ken Fitzpatrick first learned he had kidney disease at 19 years old. He was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease, a condition where clusters of cysts develop and grow in the kidneys. At 56 years old, after dealing with the disease his entire life, Ken’s kidney function started to decline very quickly, and he began dialysis.

Patients who do not receive a kidney transplant must continue dialysis for the rest of their lives. Ken knew that if he ever wanted to return to his normal life, a transplant was necessary. Because there are more than 95,000 people across the country on the waiting list for a kidney transplant, he knew finding a living donor was his best option.


During a living-donor kidney transplant, a transplant surgeon removes a healthy kidney from a living donor and transplants it into the patient. The human body only needs one kidney to function, which makes this surgery possible.

Waiting for two years on the transplant list, Ken was less energetic, missing work, and losing hope that he would find a kidney donor. His nephew, Frank, noticed these changes and was very unhappy to see how the dialysis treatment was affecting his uncle’s quality of life. He scheduled a transplant evaluation to see if he could be a living donor.

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After the testing was complete, Frank was overjoyed to learn that he was approved to donate and was excited to tell Ken the good news.

“It was just a sigh of relief knowing that something’s going to happen,” Ken said.

In 2017, after years of struggling with kidney disease, Ken received a second chance at life thanks to his nephew’s generous gift.

After waking up in the recovery room, Ken didn’t even think the procedure had been performed, because he woke up feeling great. He was amazed and grateful that he had this chance.

“Everyone at UPMC just made everything go so smoothly,” Ken says. “I’d recommend it in a heartbeat if somebody needed a kidney.”

Frank and Ken’s results may not be representative of all similar cases.

About UPMC

Based in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and more than 700 doctor’s offices and outpatient centers. Our expert physicians are among the leaders in their fields, and we are leaders in groundbreaking research and treatment breakthroughs. UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside ranks as “One of America’s Best Hospitals” and No. 1 in Pennsylvania in U.S. News & World Report’s listings.