Carper gets the gift of life from his own daughter

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — During a time when many are focused on Resurrection, Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said he had new life thanks to his own daughter. Carper underwent life saving kidney transplant surgery last weekend at the Charleston Area Medical Center. His donated kidney came from his daughter Virginia.

Kent Carper

“I’m so grateful to my physician, the excellent care I received, and to my youngest daughter, Virginia,” Carper said in an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.” “She donated her kidney to me.”

Virginia told MetroNews the decision for her was easy, the decision for her dad was much harder.

“We had a family discussion and I decided right then I would start the process of testing to be a living donor,” Virginia explained. “My dad is pretty hard headed and was 100 percent against me doing that. I’m just like my dad and I’m REALLY hard headed and I was 100 percent going to do it.”

The two apparently butted heads in the debate right up until the night before the procedure. Virginia admitted while she made the choice, there were a lot of ups and downs about the potential consequences and pitfalls.  She called it an “emotional roller coaster” as she went through each battery of tests.   She added her husband and teenage son were both on board and completely supportive.

“Nobody asked me to do it. That’s not something you can ask somebody to do,” said Virginia. “I was asked if it was an emotional decision and absolutely it was because it was my dad. It was also my mom, and my children, and there’s things that we’re not ready to let go of yet.”

Commissioner Carper had been battling the illness privately for quite a while. Blood work in a routine physical showed irregularities which concerned his physician and necessitated a further investigation. However, even the specialists were not overly concerned at the findings initially. Carper fought it as long as he could.

“I was sick, nonetheless I ran the largest county government in the state, ran a reelection campaign, and was a member of a law firm,” he said. “But eventually I just couldn’t deal with it anymore.”

He went on several waiting lists for a donor and spent two months on dialysis. When he revealed the health condition to his family was when Virginia began her crusade with a long battery of tests.

“I’m proud of my dad,” she said. “He was a pretty tough guy through the dialysis and his diagnoses. It was amazing.”

Both Virginia and the Commissioner lauded the work of Dr. Africa and the kidney transplant team at the Charleston Area Medical Center. According to the Commissioner the team performs about 60 transplants annually in Charleston and offers one of the most respected transplant units in the country.

“They’re the best kept secret in West Virginia,” he said.

Both father and daughter were out of the hospital within a few days and on the mend. The experience has given the Commissioner a new lease on life and for his daughter, given her a new mission to be an advocate for organ donation.

“It’s absolutely the right thing to do,” she said. “I had no idea how many people sit at home and just wait. Their whole life is consumed with the dialysis and waiting. That’s just not something I could let my dad do.”


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