Update: Shoreline father with twins and kidney disease celebrates his life after kidney transplant

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Ryan Tibayan with his twins Kaila and Greyson on their 3rd birthday
Photo by Forrest Alverez

By Cynthia Flash

Something about the number that rang on his cell phone on Nov. 15 prompted Ryan Tibayan to pick up. Normally he would ignore those unrecognized numbers – assuming it’s a spam caller. But he picked up.

Good thing he did. It was a representative from the Organ Transplant Center at Swedish Medical Center, saying they had a match. Less than 24 hours later, he entered Swedish First Hill and exited two days later with a functioning kidney.

“It was definitely crazy getting the transplant during COVID, especially being in the hospital alone for a few days post surgery,” the Shoreline resident said. “No visitors were allowed in the hospital at all for any reason.”

Despite receiving a kidney that he had waited so long for, that time in Tibayan’s life was bittersweet. Less than two weeks before he got the call for his new kidney, his mother Remedios Tibayan, who lived with his family, was hospitalized with congestive heart failure. When Tibayan learned that he was going to receive a new kidney, he called his mother in the hospital with an update. 

She was discharged the day after he received his transplant, and he was able to see her when he got home the next day. Sadly, Remedios ended up back in the hospital on Nov. 19 and died the next day.

“I am glad that she came home, even though it was for such a short period of time, so that my kids could see their Lola (grandmother in Tagalog) one last time. My son Greyson fell asleep on her lap that night,” Tibayan said. 
“I honestly feel like she waited for me to get my transplant and to see that everything was ok before she had to leave us.”

That healthy kidney provided Tibayan the opportunity – for the first time since 2017 – to no longer rely on dialysis, the treatments necessary to clean waste and water from kidneys that had failed due to kidney disease. He had been receiving dialysis treatments attached to a machine at home five days a week for four hours at a time – all while caring for his young twins while his wife Nicole works as a manager at a local retail store to support the family. The twins, Kaila and Greyson, turned three on March 14 – the same month Ryan and Nicole recognized National Kidney Month.

“The transplant has definitely changed my life for the better thus far. Not having to worry about doing dialysis five times a week has given me so much more time to spend with my son and daughter. This is what I wanted the most out of my transplant – to be there for them for as long as possible.”

The Tibayan family was featured in the Shoreline Area News in March 2019, when the twins were turning one and Ryan was juggling their care with his dialysis. At the time, he was a patient of Northwest Kidney Centers, a local non-profit that pioneered out-of-hospital dialysis treatment during the 1960s. Although he no longer needs Northwest Kidney Centers’ services, he credits the organization with helping him stay healthy while on dialysis.

“I couldn’t have made this journey without them. They were fantastic and all the nurses that I worked with there were amazing,” said Tibayan, who now receives medical guidance from his transplant team at Swedish Medical Center.

For others facing kidney disease, Tibayan’s advice is to never give up. “Keep fighting. The hardships you endure will be worth it in the end. Also, make sure you have a great support system. And don’t get discouraged if you are not chosen for the kidney once you start getting calls. Most people don’t receive the kidney on their first few calls, when they are called as a backup.” Tibayan was a backup kidney recipient twice before he received his kidney transplant.

Kidney disease is often a silent ailment, with most people unaware that it affects 850 million people worldwide. It is the 11th leading cause of global mortality. Fifteen percent of Americans have chronic kidney disease, and 90 percent don’t know it because kidney damage usually occurs without symptoms.

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the two leading causes of kidney disease. Other risk factors include heart disease, smoking and family history of kidney disease. Those who are African American, Asian American or Native American, people who are overweight and those over age 60 are also at risk.

Find out if you are at risk by taking the quiz at www.nwkidney.org/quiz.

“People with a risk factor for kidney disease should have their doctors check their blood pressure and do appropriate lab tests, such as possible blood and urine tests to check their kidney health,” said Dr. Suzanne Watnick, chief medical officer at Northwest Kidney Centers.

“The advice that works for heart health is also good for kidney health: eat a healthy diet, be active for 30 minutes five days a week and don’t put harmful things into your body. All of us should minimize the salt we eat by cutting back on fast food and processed foods. 
"And know that long-term use of drugstore nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) pain relievers such as ibuprofen and naproxen, with brand names such as Aleve and Advil, can be hard on kidneys,” Watnick said.

Find more information about kidney disease prevention and treatment at www.nwkidney.org.


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