The McComases’ search ultimately led them to NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in September 2017. NewYork-Presbyterian performs more solid organ transplants than any other hospital nationwide, including more than 400 kidney transplants annually.
Dr. Sandip Kapur, who leads the kidney transplant program at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell, was optimistic about the couple’s chances for a successful transplant. NewYork-Presbyterian determines eligibility for both transplantation and donation based on a number of factors, such as health history and the results of a comprehensive medical examination and a psycho-social evaluation, including adherence with medication and treatment regimens.
But while the screening is stringent, NewYork-Presbyterian doesn’t set upper age limits on kidney recipients or donors.
“Dr. Kapur’s response was, ‘What’s the problem? Why can’t we do this?’” Bill says. “He saw absolutely no problem with doing the transplant.”
“We have transplanted people into their 80s, and our patients have received living donor kidneys from donors who were well into their 70s,” says Dr. Kapur. “Obviously, at some point, age does become a factor because with age comes a whole host of issues.”
But, he continues, “we’ve taken the approach that we recognize that the American population is aging. I don’t look at the people who come here in a chronological way. I look at them in a physiological way. There are some people in their 60s who physiologically look like they’re in their 40s.”
Encouraged by the positivity of the transplant and donor teams, Bill and Joan had more jokes than heartfelt goodbyes as they prepared for surgery on January 11, 2018.
“You’re going to wake up peeing like a girl,” Joan told her husband as she headed for the operating room.
The day after the transplant, as they walked the hallways of the hospital together, the couple was amazed that Bill’s spirits and appearance had improved so quickly.
“I was surprised how much better he looked already — his color, his disposition,” Joan says.
Dr. Kapur was pleased at how quickly both patients recovered.
“Mrs. McComas is a really healthy lady and sprang back quickly after her operation. When I saw her a couple of weeks after her operation, anyone would be hard-pressed to tell that she had just undergone a major operation,” he says. “Mr. McComas really just flew through the operation and recovered equally well. They’re both thriving.”
The McComases credit the NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell staff — from the nurses who signed a get-well card to the friendly cleaning crew — for being supportive and upbeat as the couple recovered from surgery.
“These people care about you; they’re interested in your health and they want to help you,” Bill says. “It’s not a bunch of people just doing their job.”
Says Joan, “People were courteous and more than helpful and compassionate, no matter who we interacted with, regardless of their position on the staff.”
Dr. Kapur credits Joan for her determination and her devotion to her husband.
“The fact that these people had gone to three other programs and were still pursuing a way to have this happen is a testimony to Mr. McComas’ wife,” Dr. Kapur says. “To me, it was clearly evident that she was motivated by her love for him to make this happen.”