Patient Story: From Doctor to Donor

February 25, 2019, 10:46am EST

When Dr. Rizwan Badar chose to become a nephrologist, he did so because he liked the idea of having a specialty that works with all areas of the body—something that forces physicians to put on their “detective hat” in order to figure out the problem and best solution.
About four years ago, when Rizwan learned that his older brother, Owais, was experiencing shortness of breath and swelling in his legs, he knew that the combination of symptoms was no mystery. Bloodwork showed that Owais, who was 36 at the time, was in full kidney failure. He went onto peritoneal dialysis before shifting to hemodialysis, but the goal was to ultimately get a kidney transplant.
At the time, Owais wasn’t a candidate for a transplant due to the heart damage he sustained when his kidneys failed. In addition to needing a new kidney, Owais needed a new heart, and when multiple organs are needed, the typical recommendation is for the organs to all come from the same (non-living) donor, an often-complex process that requires placement on a long waiting list. After some time, however, Owais’ heart function miraculously improved on its own, and three years into his kidney journey, he was added to the transplant list and began his wait for a living donor.
Rizwan and his younger brother both tried to be donors for Owais, and when Rizwan turned out to be the better match, there was no question that he would move forward with the surgery. “Kidneys do much more than just filtering electrolytes,” says Rizwan. “A healthy kidney can help you live the way you want to live. It’s true that dialysis keeps you alive, but a kidney transplant is what brings you back to life— I wanted to help give my brother a second chance at life.”
Being a physician himself, Rizwan was in a unique position of needing to balance between being a doctor and being a donor. However, his trust in physicians and his brothers’ treatment team made it easy to go into the process seeing himself strictly as a donor, and more importantly, as a brother.
The transplant was a success, and now, just over a year later, Rizwan and Owais are both feeling better than ever and recently celebrated their one-year “kidney-versary” with their family.
Since the transplant, Rizwan feels that he is often able to combine his roles of doctor and donor when interacting with patients at his practice. His experience allows him to connect with his patients on a more personal level as he works to help them understand their own situations and treatment options.  
If Rizwan could tell every potential donor one thing, it would be this: “The process of going through a kidney transplant may be scary or difficult—and both sides will certainly have some recovery time—but it’s all worth it when you’re able to help someone go back to his or her life before kidney disease. We only need one kidney to live—so if you’re given the opportunity (and if you are able), please donate.”