Ed Kranepool’s two-year wait for a kidney transplant appears to be over, the first baseman of the 1969 world champion Mets said Monday.
Kranepool said the procedure is scheduled for May 7 at Stony Brook University Hospital. Kali Chan, the hospital's director of media relations, confirmed the transplant has been scheduled and will be performed by Frank S. Darras, medical director of transplantation services.
“I’m nervous, but also ecstatic,’’ Kranepool, 74, said from his home in Jericho. “It’s very exhilarating, no question about it. It's lifesaving. But I am nervous. It's a three-and-a-half-hour operation. Even though the doctor doesn't see it as a problem. Nothing is a problem until there’s a problem."
Preliminary blood work and other testing matched Kranepool to a donor with an exact AB blood type, he said. The full extent of the procedure and the donor have not yet been made known to Kranepool.
"I have not met the donor as of today,’’ Kranepool said. “I don't know whether I will or not. It’s up to the hospital and to the donor as to whether he wants to meet. I go for my final workup pre-ops on Thursday. There is a chance I'll meet the donor on Thursday. All of us might be together on Thursday. I don't know if it's a guy or a woman, all I know it's an AB organ. It's a perfect match.’’
Kranepool, who met reporters at the ballpark later in the day, reiterated that he had yet to meet the donor. "I don't know if he's a Yankee fan or Mets fan," he joked.
Kranepool said he recalled a mantra from the 1973 season to help him remain hopeful during the long wait. "That's what kept me strong," he said. "I never got depressed. ... When you're asking someone for an organ, you never know when it is going to come. ... Ya gotta believe."
Kranepool said his kidney function has dropped to about 20 percent. He said Darras told him he will be hospitalized for about five days and will require frequent postoperative visits for up to six months, but that Kranepool will be cleared to join his former teammates when the Mets celebrate the '69 team the last weekend of June at Citi Field.
The transplant, Kranepool said, will not involve the removal of his own organs. "They're adding a kidney to me. I'll wind up, as it turns out, with three kidneys. Two of them will die off. They're basically not functional anyway, so they'll shrink. I have a big chest, the doctor said. He said you have room to take another organ. They're not taking an organ out of me, they're adding one. They will suture it together.’’
Kranepool has been able to avoid dialysis during the wait.
"I have friends who went to dialysis, not fun; that changes your whole life,'' he said. "Three times a week you have to go to dialysis. My kidney doctor [Jeffrey T. Cohen in Manhasset] told me it's been amazing how I've been able to hold on, he said my numbers have stayed steady. How long they stay steady, he said, we don't know. It could hit the fan tomorrow and then you'd really have a problem. You're on borrowed time, your age, the window of opportunity is getting smaller. We got to do it when you're healthy."
Kranepool said another possible donor had been identified, but the transplant would have taken place in Hackensack, New Jersey. Darras told him he would not be able to see him for post-op visits. “He said, 'When I put an organ in, I know everything about that organ.’ This is 40 minutes from my house; I don’t know how long it would take to get to Hackensack with the traffic.’’
The search for a kidney donor was initially delayed as Kranepool had three surgeries on his left foot, two resulting in the removal of his toes because of diabetes. He then developed an infection, which required the removal of about two inches of bone on the side of his foot. “The whole thing is, diabetes is a silent disease that gets you in more different ways. I tried hyperbaric [chamber] for six or seven months. That was like sleeping in a coffin."
Kranepool said he will be placed on anti-rejection drugs after the transplant.
“The doctors said 20 years ago people would get sick from these drugs," Kranepool said. "Everything has come a long way. Dr. Darras said he has done 1,500 of these transplants. Plus, he's a Mets fan."
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