Ascension Saint Thomas Leader Gifts a Kidney to Her Father | Ascension

Ascension Saint Thomas Leader Gifts a Kidney to Her Father

Our Director of Cardiac Services and her father share their kidney transplant journey as donor and recipient

Dave Caseltine still gets emotional when he thinks about the gift his daughter gave him.

That gift was a kidney donation.

When asked how he felt about his daughter giving him a kidney, he said he felt blessed. "I felt like a pretty lucky guy," he shared as his voice broke with emotion.

When Caseltine, 66, went into acute renal failure, he was told by his doctors that he would be on dialysis and that his kidneys would not recover. His daughter, Leslie Dunfee, Director of Cardiac Services at Ascension Saint Thomas, knew that she wanted to offer one of her kidneys to him.

Before deciding to elect the transplantation surgery, Caseltine and Dunfee explored his options. "I don't know that my dad was really sold on wanting a transplant. You know you go through all those classes, and you are given all these options. I think that's a lot of info for a patient to take in," Dunfee shared. Some of the options they received included dialysis, peritoneal dialysis and the opportunity to list for a transplant.

When Caseltine, a Georgia resident, decided to explore his options for transplantation, Dunfee, 39, wanted her father to have the option to be dual-listed in two states. Still, together they elected to have the kidney transplant with Ascension Saint Thomas Kidney Transplant Center.

Dunfee kept her decision to be her father's donor a secret to ensure she was a match. "When you're being worked up for a transplant, they don't really tell the recipient just in case. For one, they don't want the recipient to get their hopes up in case you are not a match," she explained.

The father and daughter had their first transplant consultation in February 2020 with Ascension Saint Thomas Kidney Transplant Center. However, COVID-19 postponed elective procedures, but once the hospital reopened its elective procedures, the process moved quickly for both Castletien and Dunfee. Caseltine was put on the donor list and approved for a transplant in July 2020. Dunfee began the donor matching process and was approved by the end of August 2020. They scheduled the procedure for October 6, 2020. "I'm a pretty lucky fellow to get this all done in less than two years. The other folks that I've become accustomed with said it took six to eight and ten years before they were able to get a donor," Caseltine said.

Ascension Saint Thomas has been with Caseltine every step of his kidney transplant process. From consultation, donor matching, the surgery and now recovery. "Everybody was sweet, felt well taken care of and no real issues," he said. Now in the recovery stage, Caseltine is taking life with his new kidney day by day. He and Dunfee go to his doctor appointments, which are currently monthly. Recovery for Dunfee as a donor was much more manageable than she anticipated. "Considering the massive gift that is giving a kidney, like my life really hasn't changed any," she said. She went back to work three weeks after the procedure.

The gift of a kidney is even special when it comes from a loved one. The kidney transplant process for Caseltine and Dunfee is an experience that makes this father/daughter bond even stronger.

The Ascension Saint Thomas Kidney Transplant Center’s fast transplant rates means patients wait less time for a kidney. Learn more about our center here.