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After one Marine dies, his kidney saves another

The fast-paced kidney transplant underscores the deep bond among service members and their families, according to friends and relatives.

August 21, 2011|By Brittany Levine, Los Angeles Times
  • Sgt. Jacob Chadwick, shown with his daughter Ella Marie, received the kidney of a fellow Marine, 2nd Lt. Patrick Wayland.
Sgt. Jacob Chadwick, shown with his daughter Ella Marie, received the kidney… (Victoria Chadwick )

One Marine's tragedy became another's lifeline this month as medical staff on opposite sides of the country worked quickly on an out-of-the-ordinary kidney donation.

The fast-paced transplant underscores the deep bond among service members and their families, according to friends and relatives. As Sgt. Jacob Chadwick prepared to leave the hospital Aug. 11, hundreds of police cars and motorcycles escorted 2nd Lt. Patrick Wayland's casket through his hometown of Midland, Texas, where thousands lined the streets waving American flags.

"Patrick took an oath to serve his country. Few people are able to do that," said Wayland's friend, 2nd Lt. John Silvestro. "Patrick, he would consider himself lucky to serve not only his country, but his fellow Marine."

Staff at UC San Diego Medical Center said they were surprised by the extra effort one family put in to help a stranger.

"I've been doing this for 20 years and have never seen anything like it," said David Lewino, a transplant coordinator. "That whole sense of Marine family — you hear about it, but when you see it firsthand, you really believe it."

By having a kidney designated to him, Chadwick was able to get off the waiting list.

In October, Chadwick had an appointment to get his kidneys checked after experiencing severe headaches and dizzy spells. But that was the day his daughter, Ella Marie, was born. Chadwick put off going to the doctor, trying to enjoy his time with Ella.

Chadwick, who said he had always been healthy, spent most of 2009 as an infantryman in Iraq with the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton. By the time he saw a doctor in December, his kidneys were scarred. It was a sign of rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis, or kidney failure. He needed a transplant.

No one in his family had the right blood type, O, to save him. He signed up to receive a kidney from a cadaver, but the average wait time was five years. For 12 hours a week, Chadwick was on dialysis, tied to a machine that sucked out his blood, cleaned it and pumped it back into his veins.

He hated that machine, but it would take another Marine's tragedy to free him from it.

On Aug. 1, Wayland suffered cardiac arrest during a swimming exercise at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida. The 24-year-old Marine, the one friends called Superman, would spend the next week in the hospital, his brain swelling. His family waited for a miracle. Doctors pronounced Wayland brain-dead Aug. 5.

"I know we have a long and hard road in front of us," his father, David Wayland, wrote in an online journal after he learned of his son's condition. "But carry Patrick in your heart, and take comfort in knowing that he is leading God's Army in Heaven now."

Wayland's mother went to another room to sign off on donating her son's organs, but she needed a witness. Lt. Jeff Moore, a Navy doctor, happened to be walking by. He agreed to help. That night, while Moore lay in bed, a thought popped into his head: What if Wayland's death could save another Marine?

He searched "Marine needs a kidney" on Google and found news stories about Chadwick. That was who should get the kidney, Moore thought. Wayland's parents agreed. The next morning Moore called the San Diego hospital where Chadwick was a patient.

"How do I make sure Jacob gets this Marine's kidney?'" he asked. At first the transplant representative thought it was a prank. It wasn't.

Hospital staff on both ends worked quickly to check whether the Marines were a match. Kidneys must be transplanted within 24 to 36 hours. A blood sample from Wayland was sent on a six-hour plane ride to San Diego for testing. Six more hours later, out came a positive result. The kidney left for San Diego that Sunday morning. It arrived at 1 p.m. Chadwick had surgery an hour later.

"It could have gone to anyone, but they found someone, a Marine, that needed a kidney. They searched for that. That definitely speaks of the bond Marines have," Chadwick said. "This is not how it usually happens. It was just meant to be."

Wayland's family and friends plan to meet Chadwick soon.

"I don't know if Jake is ready for the amount of love coming his way," Silvestro said.

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