Fort Fairfield man receives kidney from family friend
FORT FAIRFIELD, Maine — Ever since Mike Daigle of Fort Fairfield was diagnosed with kidney disease in 2012, he and his family had been hoping that one day doctors would find a kidney that would be the perfect match for his body and allow him to once again enjoy life to the fullest.
Now, thanks to the generosity of family friend Marisa Clark, also of Fort Fairfield, Daigle is looking forward to a future without the worries and fears that came from living with a serious medical condition.
Clark, 21, and her family have known the Daigles for years through school and church and in November 2017 her mother, Wendy Clark, decided to begin the process of finding out if she was an eligible kidney donor for Daigle. After going through the necessary paperwork and medical appointments she found out in June 2018 that she was not eligible.
That’s when Marisa Clark, who works as a physical therapist assistant at Cary Medical Center in Caribou, became motivated to go through the process herself to find out if her kidney would be declared a match.
“The amount of time between when you start the process and when you find out if you’re eligible varies depending on how old you are and your medical history,” Marisa Clark explained. “I found out in August, only two months after I started the process, that my kidney was a match for Mike.”
In September, she surprised the Daigle family with the news at church.
“Words cannot express how I felt in that moment. It was like a big weight was lifted off my shoulders,” Daigle said.
Daigle, 49, was first diagnosed with kidney disease six years ago, not long after going to the emergency room for a broken finger. The doctors told him at that time that his blood pressure was 180 over 120 and recommended that he see a kidney doctor in Bangor. He later found out that his kidney was functioning at 22 percent.
For four years, Daigle monitored his kidney function and managed to avoid dialysis until his kidney function fell to eight percent. He chose to begin peritoneal dialysis because unlike hemodialysis, which requires that patients go to a dialysis clinic, he was able to give himself treatments at home and still work full time at Acadia Medical Supply in Fort Fairfield. But that also meant he had to stay hooked to a dialysis machine all night and perform a manual exchange every night at 6 to ensure that he received the proper amount of fluids.
On Tuesday, Oct. 16, doctors at the Maine Transplant Program, based at Maine Medical Center in Portland, performed the surgery that allowed Daigle to successfully receive Clark’s kidney. They both returned home three days later and have been focused since on recovering and getting back to their everyday lives again.
“During the first two weeks, I barely had any energy and couldn’t lift anything over 10 to 15 pounds. I set a goal for myself of walking a little bit every day,” Clark said. “I feel really good now and I’m able to walk at least one mile without feeling weak.”
For the first four weeks after surgery, Daigle attended follow-up appointments in Portland three days a week to monitor the condition of his new kidney and adjust the amount of medication he needs to take so that his body can adjust properly to the transplant.
Unlike his former diet, in which he had to strictly avoid high levels of phosphorus because his kidneys could not balance the chemical properly, Daigle is now able to eat most foods as long as he stays away from high amounts of sugar to avoid the risk of developing diabetes. He now only travels to Portland once a week and said that the amount of appointments will eventually decrease to two per month, once a month and then once a year as his body becomes accustomed to the organ.
In the meantime, Daigle is looking forward to spending more time with his family and being able to participate in activities that his dialysis limited or prevented him from doing.
“My wife (Tiffany Daigle) loves to hike, but every time I tried going with her I would get too tired and have to turn around,” Daigle said. “My youngest son plays basketball, so now I’ll finally get to watch him play. I always had to do manual dialysis at home when the games were happening.”
Clark stated that their recent experiences have brought her and the Daigle family even closer together and made them all thankful for each other’s friendship.
“Before all of this, I had never really thought about what it would be like for my mom or dad to not be able to take part in experiences with the whole family,” Clark said. “I’m grateful that I’m not only helping Mike but also his family.”
Daigle and his wife, Tiffany, have documented their journey on a Facebook page titled “A Kidney for Mike” in which they’ve expressed gratitude toward their family, friends and fellow community members for their encouraging words. They have even seen people use #daiglestrong and #clarkbrave to show their support to both Daigle and Clark throughout their challenging but rewarding experiences.
“It’s amazing to know that I can finally have my life back,” Daigle said.