Each year on June 3, Mark Farnham celebrates two important anniversaries: his marriage to wife Adrienne and the kidney transplant that gave him a second chance at life.
Until 2005, Mark was a healthy father of three, coaching his children’s sports teams and enjoying his role as coordinator of pastoral and pre-seminary majors at Lancaster Bible College. The 6’8” former college athlete led an active lifestyle, biking, hiking, swimming, playing tennis, and working out at the gym in his spare time.
Then at age 40, a routine doctor’s appointment and testing revealed a diagnosis of IgA nephropathy, or Berger’s disease. Mark’s kidneys were functioning at just 23%.
The transplant journey
“They told me I would need a kidney transplant within a year,” Mark recalled. “It was crazy because I had no symptoms.”
Mark’s physician referred him to Penn Medicine’s Transplant Institute where he was prescribed medication that delayed the need for a transplant until the summer of 2009, when his kidney function dropped to close to 14%.
“I was added to the transplant list, but the doctors told us it could take four to five years until a donor kidney became available,” said Mark, who expected he might have to undergo dialysis in the meantime.
Family to the rescue
Adrienne and the rest of Mark’s family sprung into action, getting tested to see if anyone was a transplant match. While neither of his sisters was a match, his brother-in-law Tom was. The two went through additional testing, and “the rest was just scheduling a convenient time for everyone,” joked Mark.
On June 3, 2010, the Farnham’s 21st wedding anniversary, Mark received a kidney from Tom, as the brothers-in-law had transplant surgery at Penn.
“The most painful part was tearing off the Band-aid”
Mark was out of the hospital in four days and fully recovered in two months; immediately regaining his strength and energy.
“The most painful part was tearing off the Band-Aid,” laughed Mark. “I feel much better now than I did five years ago and I can’t say enough about my experience at Penn. From start to finish everything was wonderful. Everyone was so caring and professional, thoroughly answering all of our questions.”
Healthy and grateful today
Today both Mark and Tom are healthy, and the family has much to celebrate.
“Life is good,” said Mark, who takes medication every day to help prevent his body from rejecting the transplanted kidney and follows up regularly with his doctors, including a nephrologist at Penn Medicine. He is back to his previous activity level, now having fun with his first grandchild.
“Our children are thriving and I’m so blessed to be able to watch them grow into adulthood,” he said.
One of the Farnham’s daughters was even inspired to pursue a career in nursing as a result of her father’s journey.
“Our experiences really made an impression on her,” Adrienne said. “She saw the amazing care we received at Penn Medicine and LG Health, and decided she wanted to be an intensive care nurse.”
“We were thrilled when LG Health partnered with Penn Medicine,” added Adrienne. “Transplant services here give us easy access to Penn without having to make the trip to Philly.”
A special bond of love
June 3 will always be a special date for Mark and his family, particularly brother-in-law Tom with whom he celebrates each year.
“I don’t want any special recognition,” said Tom before the surgery—a sentiment he still holds onto today. “I’m just doing this because I love you.”
Mark (pictured with wife Adrienne) shared his story and encouraged organ donation during a National Donate Life Month flag-raising ceremony at Lancaster General Hospital. Learn more, including how to become an organ donor, at www.donatelifepa.org. One organ donor can save 7 lives.