Son gives gift of life

By Helena Rodriguez: PNT Staff Writer

Travis Husted has given his father more than just a kidney for Christmas. His 60-year-old dad, Andy, a Methodist minister by trade, said his son has given him a new lease on life.

“I feel much better now than I did before my surgery. I can go for walks now and I have no more leg cramps. Before my surgery, it was getting to the point to where I was going downhill,” said Andy, who is hopeful that he will be recovered enough by June to receive a new church assignment. The last church he pastored was in Albuquerque two years ago. He has served as a pastor for Elida Methodist Church in the past.

Andy was diagnosed with a kidney disease eight years ago and then underwent four years of kidney dialysis before his 30-year-old son gave him one of his kidneys on Nov. 3 during a transplant operation at Covenant Medical Center in Lubbock. Doctors say Andy has had a speedier recovery than usual and Andy considers this to be nothing short of a Christmas miracle. He was allowed to return home to Portales on Dec. 15, just one day before his son, Rusty, graduated from Eastern New Mexico University.

Although Travis has been referred to as a hero and a good person, he said he never had any second thoughts about giving his father an organ. “I said, ‘It’s my dad!’ Hopefully, he will live longer and this will improve his way of life.”
When Andy learned that he needed a new kidney, he said that each of his three sons, Rusty, Heath and Travis, and his one daughter, Heather, said: “Take mine!” His son Rusty was determined to be the best match, however, following a family discussion, they felt Travis would be the best donor since Travis was in between jobs and a major surgery like this would interrupt Rusty’s classes at Eastern.

“I was honored to be able to do this,” Travis said. “When I found out Rusty was a closer match, I was a little disappointed, but then we all decided for me to do it.”

Before Travis could become a donor, even for his father, he said he was required to undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine his mental state of mind.

“One thing the psychiatrist said to me was that ‘This is the ultimate gift. You’re placing your life on the line, so we want you to be as prepared as possible,’” Travis explained.

Travis didn’t think twice about giving his father the ultimate gift, though, saying, “If someone needs a transplant to begin with, then they are not living much of a life.”

Andy was placed on kidney recipient waiting lists at the University of New Mexico hospital in Albuquerque and at hospitals in Lubbock.
Nevertheless, he was confident that a donor would be found because many of his family and friends were stepping forward. But even after his son Travis was scheduled to become a donor, he admits that he did have some concerns about his son.

“The hardest mental thing I had to go through was that by taking one of my son’s kidneys, I worried about what would happen if my body rejected the kidney,” Andy said. “Also, his incision from the surgery is bigger than mine. It is much tougher on the donor than the receiver.”

In fact, Andy said that doctors in Lubbock told them that removing an organ from a donor is the only surgical process that they perform in which the quality of life of a patient is not improved.

“Usually surgery is to make someone better, but this surgery just hurts,” Travis said. Nevertheless, the pain he still gets from his incisions is easier for him to endure than seeing his father suffer. And his dad also takes comfort in the fact that by being a donor — should Travis ever need an organ himself — he would be placed at the top of any waiting lists.

Christmas, no doubt, will be a particularly joyous occasion for the Husteds this year. Andy and his wife, Eileen, a survivor of colon cancer, will have all of their four children home for the holidays. They always spend Christmas together, but this year they are particularly happy, not only because of his recovery progress, but also because their daughter, Heather, who has been in China teaching English at a university since summer, is scheduled to arrive home on Christmas Eve.

Andy commended the medical staff at Plains Regional Medical Center in Clovis and in Lubbock for the great healthcare he said they have provided.

As for Travis, he said, “This has made me put more faith in God, to rely on God and his blessings, to trust that he will take care of the whole situation.”

Travis is making a good recovery as well. He will be looking for a job soon and also hopes to save money to go to graduate school and eventually become a pastor like his father. He would also like to get married someday.

As for Andy, he is taking it one day at a time. Even after going through all of his life-savings, he said he is grateful for this health and he is pleased with the results so far. In fact, doctors said that the kidney Travis gave to Andy is functioning better than Travis’s remaining kidney.

“God has had a hand in this,” Andy exclaimed. “I would say this is a miracle because of all of the people at our church praying for us. We’re on prayer chains around the world. Miracles do not come about by accident. It takes a lot of people to make a miracle work, and I think that pleases God.”