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Friday, September 19th, 2008

On the receiving end

Firefighter from Fort Recovery hopes to get new kidney by Christmas

By Margie Wuebker

Brandon Clifton, a firefighter with Southwest Mercer Fire District, looks forwar. . .

FORT RECOVERY - Brandon Clifton walks slowly past a line of fire trucks at Southwest Mercer Fire Department knowing it is only a matter of time until he pulls on familiar turnout gear and gets back to helping others in their time of need.
Being on the receiving end is a new experience for the 26-year-old awaiting kidney transplant surgery.
"It is amazing and yet humbling," he says quietly. "So many people have come forward from those planning benefits to brother firefighters offering kidneys."
Clifton, a carpenter at Home Idea Center, never expected dialysis or surgery when he went to the doctor for a prescription refill. He wound up having blood work which showed kidney function at just 10 percent. The rate dropped to between 2 and 5 percent in a matter of days.
"Regular kidneys are the size of fists while mine are like golf balls," he says. "For whatever reason they never developed properly and problems finally caught up with me."
He began dialysis treatments in mid-August after being admitted to Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne, Ind. A doctor surgically implanted a catheter near his collarbone and the first treatment ensued thereafter.
Clifton and his wife, Morgan, struggled to come to grips with the unexpected diagnosis. Looking back, he remembers subtle signs like a lack of appetite and subsequent weight loss. He went from 200 pounds to 168 pounds, giving his lanky frame a rather gaunt look.
Morgan spent hours on the computer researching kidney transplants and compiling a long list of questions for the specialist. Brandon's list proved far shorter - "How long will I be laid up?" and "How soon can I get back to firefighting?"
Family members quickly volunteered to become donors. However, several have been eliminated due to medical issues. His mother, Vicky of Ohio City, is currently involved in indepth testing to determine her suitability. Should test results fall below acceptable levels, the search moves to another candidate with friends and fellow firefighters asking to be considered.
"Morgan and I have the same blood type so she wants to be the donor," he says. "No way, we want to start a family and I don't want to do anything that might place her in jeopardy later."
The transplant will be performed at Indiana University Medical Center in Indianapolis, where highly trained teams perform 200 to 300 kidney transplants each year. The Cliftons have been told to expect surgery prior to Christmas.
"My name will only go on the national transplant list if no donor is found," he says. "If that happens, I'll have my suitcase ready and waiting because the call could come at any time."
Clifton shows no fear regarding the anticipated surgery, pointing out decades of research have resulted in transplanted organs lasting 30 to 40 years. Previously, the average for a kidney was just five to seven years. New techniques mean smaller incisions for donor as well as recipient speeding the healing process.
In the meantime, he undergoes dialysis three times a week in Decatur, Ind. He chuckles softly before stating he is the youngest patient in the treatment area. The median age is around 72, so it's like being surrounded by grandparents during the four-hour sessions.
"I will have to take anti-rejection medication for the rest of my life," he says. "That's an awfully small concession to make for being healthy again."
And that means climbing aboard a fire truck, wielding high pressure hoses and helping others when they need it most.

Benefits planned:
Several benefits are planned for Brandon Clifton, a firefighter with Southwest Mercer Fire District who needs a kidney transplant.
The first - an omelet, pancake and sausage breakfast -is 8 a.m. to noon Sunday at the Fort Recovery firehouse. Tickets are available at the door. The event is sponsored by his fellow firefighters.
A benefit concert and auction will be held from 4-10 p.m. Oct. 12 at the Fort Recovery American Legion Hall. An auction of donated items is from 5-6 p.m. with a 50/50 drawing at 9 p.m.
"RJ the DJ" will provide music beginning at 4 p.m. and Country Mile will take to the stage at 7 p.m. Both performers have donated their services for the event. Hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, pop and beer will be sold throughout the evening.
There is a $3 admission charge at the door for adults as well as children ages 12 and over. All proceeds benefit the Brandon Clifton Fund at Second National Bank in Fort Recovery.
Anyone needing additional information should call Amanda Wyerick, 419-733-3598, or Morgan Clifton, 419-852-5751.  
- Margie Wuebker
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