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Irving man gets 2nd chance with brother’s kidney

Brothers Aaron and Lee Goggin describe themselves as close siblings, but their relationship grew more special this week when Aaron gave his brother a kidney.

Lee, 31, had been battling end-stage kidney disease, which doctors believe was caused by antibiotics received when he was battling spinal meningitis as an infant. In recent months, he was relying on kidney dialysis. When younger brother Aaron proved to be a match for possible kidney donation, he gave it to Lee.

“My belief is that none of this would have been possible with the Lord setting it all in motion,” Lee said.

Surgeons at Baylor All Saints Medical Center at Fort Worth performed the six-hour transplant on Tuesday.

Dr. Nicholas Onaca and Dr. Tiffany Anthony collaborated in the surgeries. The doctors, with the help of a robot, took a kidney out of Aaron’s body. Onaca then placed the kidney in Lee’s body.

Aaron, 26, said his donation was instinctual.

The brothers grew up with an understanding — and accepting attitude — of organ donation because their mother had been a heart transplant recipient. Years later, their mother donated her organs when she passed away. The mother’s lungs, kidney and eyes were given to an organ bank.

“It’s something he would have done if the situation was flipped and I was the one who was needing it,” Aaron said. “He would have been there for me.”

More than 100 kidney transplants are performed at Baylor All Saints Medical Center at Fort Worth every year, said Dr. Bernard Fischbach, medical director of kidney and pancreas transplantation in the Baylor Health Care System.

About 20 to 25 percent of the kidney transplants come from live donors.

Fischbach said live donations provide benefits, such as being able to plan the surgery for a certain day. He said there are more than 90,000 people nationwide on lists waiting for a kidney from a deceased donor.

A live donor can come from almost anyone, including brothers, sisters and friends, Fischbach said. The key is that there has to be a blood type match.

Lee, a personal trainer who lives in Irving, said he is recuperating and he hopes to gradually build up to the active lifestyle he enjoyed most of his life. But more importantly, he wants to be able to play and carry his 1-year-old son, Jace, again.

“He’s always reaching up to me for me to pick him up,” Lee said.

Lee said he won’t take chances with his special gift.

“I just want to make sure that I take care of the kidney as well as possible so it lasts for a really long time,” Lee said.

When Lee was an infant, he spent 50 days Lee in an incubator and doctors gave him antibiotics to fight spinal meningitis. He lived a very active youth and adulthood until 2012 when his kidneys became problematic.

“They were failing,” Lee said of his kidneys. “I had 10 percent function,”

Having a strong family and close friends helped Lee with the emotional and physical toll of his kidney failure.

“If it would have happened when I was younger, it would have been much heard to deal with,” he said.

Courtney Goggin, Lee’s wife, said her husband is used to an active lifestyle and didn’t like dialysis.

“They keep calling this a second chance,” she said.

Deborah Mitchell, the brothers’ aunt, said her sister would have been proud of the brothers had she been alive today.

“It’s been an amazing experience to know their love for one another is strong,” Mitchell said.

Lee is emotional as he describes how his brother helped him.

“You realize what kind of sacrifice it is for him to come and give something — that is perfectly fine on him already — to you,” Lee said, pausing slightly. “That’s when it got more personal than I’m just getting a kidney to keep myself going.”

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