Texas State Senator Kelly Hancock of North Richland Hills underwent a successful kidney transplant surgery on Wednesday, July 13.
Because Hancock suffers from a rare kidney disease, he knew that he would eventually require a transplant. But he and his family were in for a surprise when they discovered that, among his relations, the best kidney donor for him would not be any of his blood relatives, but his son-in-law.
The surgery was a success, and both men are currently recovering in the hospital. Recovery could take several months.
Sen. Hancock has remained a physically active man for most of his life, but 31 years ago, after not feeling well while playing racquetball, he made a visit to the doctor and discovered that he had a rare kidney disease called IgA nephropathy.
Also known as Berger’s disease, this illness occurs when a protein called immunoglobin A accumulates in the kidneys, which damages kidney tissues over time and causes them to be inflamed. Eventually, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the kidneys become too damaged to function, and transplants are required.
Together with his son-in-law, Sen. Hancock spoke to NBC 5 DFW before his surgery.
“I don’t look like that I have organs failing. I do. I have had one failing for a long time,” Hancock said.
He said that because it was important to him to “live a full life without people knowing or feeling sorry for [him],” he does not speak much about his illness — not even to his family.
Hancock regularly tested his kidney function, carefully watched his diet, and worked to stay as healthy as possible. Six years ago, his doctor informed him that he would likely need a kidney transplant within two years, but because of his dedication to healthy living, Hancock was able to stave off the need for an operation for longer than that.
Eventually, however, the time inevitably came. He decided to break the news to his family at Thanksgiving dinner last year, trying his best to make light of the situation.
“That is when I told them, I said, ‘Look, I was making light because that is what I do. That is how I deal with stuff.’ But the reality is, I need a kidney, and you know the only way really to do it is that I am going to have to be on dialysis for five to seven years to qualify for a deceased donor,” Hancock recounted.
His family members immediately went to get tested and see whether they were appropriate donors for him. To everyone’s astonishment, the best donor turned out to be his son-in-law Greg Cox.
Recounting his shock, Cox said, “I got tested thinking, ‘Of course, I’ll be supportive. I’ll go get tested. There is no way this would work,’ thinking my wife would be the match, or somebody else.”
But indeed, he was the best match, and he immediately agreed to donate to his father-in-law.
“You don’t get the opportunity to help somebody like this, and Kelly would do the same for anybody that he loved without thinking, without having to be asked, and so it’s neat to be able to do it.”
After this ordeal, Sen. Hancock is still running for re-election for his seat in Texas’ 9th Senate District. Hancock’s Democratic opponent in the upcoming November election to the Texas legislature, Gwen Burud, wished Sen. Hancock well on Wednesday night.