A Tale of Two Kidneys

Life takes unexpected twists and turns as two longtime friends battle kidney disease.


Published:

At 10 o’clock every evening, 52-year-old Jim Wilson takes 27 pills. There are magnesium tablets, vitamins, anti-rejection medications­—you name it. It’s a small price to pay. Wilson got a new kidney at Christiana Hospital on Sept. 27, 2011. And that transplant saved his life.

Meanwhile, Wilson’s longtime friend Paul Graefe, 51, of Folsom, Pa., tries to sleep as he undergoes nocturnal kidney dialysis at Crozier Medical Center. He spends three nights a week at the center hooked to a machine that performs the cleansing duties his failing kidneys can’t. He hopes to catch enough sleep so he can be alert at work. He’s an account representative for Wells Fargo Bank.

Wilson and Graefe are childhood friends and former college roommates. They’re both pastors. Graefe was best man at Wilson’s wedding. Wilson officiated Graefe’s wedding. And both have kidney disease.

They’ve known for years that their kidneys would fail them. They joked that someday they’d smoke cigars and eat potato chips (strictly forbidden activities for kidney patients) while enduring dialysis together.

Two similar stories, two different endings—at least for now. “It’s probably as near to a miracle as one could expect,” Wilson says of his unexpectedly rapid kidney donation from a surprising source. Graefe still awaits a donor.

Wilson, who is vice president of academic affairs at Wilmington University, learned in an odd way that he was born with one normal kidney and the other diseased: He flunked a life insurance exam in 1982. He experienced a slow decline that reached end-stage renal disease in 2010, then went on the transplant list.

“The fatigue was profound,” Wilson says, adding that he felt often “like a cloud rolling over my head.” Foot pain and numbness added to his misery.

The wait for a transplant runs three years or more. Wilson was lucky. He and his wife, Tina, participate in Blue Hens for Christ, a Newark Church of Christ program that supports University of Delaware students. The couple has befriended many students over the years, including Stephanie Brown and her then-boyfriend, Bob Moglia. Brown, who knew about Wilson’s condition, participated in the first Wilmington Kidney Walk in 2008.

Brown and Moglia married and moved to Texas after graduation. She works at Texas A&M University while Moglia takes doctoral courses. Brown and Tina Wilson remained close, and the Wilsons attended their 2010 wedding. When Brown learned that Wilson’s condition had worsened, she decided to  donate one of her kidneys.

Initial testing in December 2010 indicated she was a suitable donor. A second round of tests covered health factors, as well as social and psychological issues involved in organ donation.

When she called the Wilsons about her decision, she says, “Their initial reaction was shock. At no point had we been that close that they would expect me to donate a kidney.”

“It was a bit of a shock and a reality check,” says Wilson. “You’ve been anticipating this for some time, and now it’s really going to happen.”

The transplant took place on Sept. 27, 2011. It took about four hours to remove Moglia’s kidney and another four hours to place it inside Wilson (where it sits in the front of his body rather than the back).

Both patient and donor recovered quickly. Moglia returned to work after a month and experienced occasional fatigue for several months. “I will always have to watch what I eat and maintain a certain exercise regimen,” she says. But she saved a life, so it’s a small sacrifice.

Wilson appeared at the 2011 Wilmington Kidney Walk just two weeks after the operation. (The walk raised more than $100,000.) He went back to work six weeks later.

In addition to the pills, Wilson maintains a high-protein, low-carb diet and drinks lots of water. He gets regular checks to ensure that his body is not rejecting the new kidney. “I didn’t realize how bad I felt before,” he notes. “It’s absolutely amazing.”

The Wilsons call Moglia their angel. “To me it was just the right thing to do,” she says. “It was a wonderful experience. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was.”

Wilson’s long-term prognosis is excellent, according to Dr. S. John Swanson III, chief of Christiana Care’s Kidney Transplant Program. “All cases are, of course, special to us, but his situation demonstrates the miracle of unrelated living donations,” says Swanson. “Save for perfectly matched siblings, with present immunosuppression to prevent rejection, these survivals essentially equal the survivals from living related donations.”

Wilson’s experience is bittersweet because his good friend Paul is not so lucky. “I’m a textbook case, and Paul is not,” says Wilson. “I’m sensitive to that.”

Graefe suffers from polysistic kidney disease, an inherited genetic disease that claimed his mother’s life in 1989. It causes cysts to form on the kidneys, and it gets worse over time. For years, Graefe “intentionally didn’t check” to see if he had the disease, but discovered it 10 years ago while being treated for high blood pressure.

Graefe had hoped to receive a kidney from his brother, Tim—who wasn’t a match. Graefe is on the cadaveric list at Temple University, and the wait is three to five years. He’s also on two paired donor lists. Under this arrangement, Tim Graefe would donate his kidney to someone with whom he’s better matched, and his brother would receive a kidney from someone else’s donor. The waiting period generally runs one to two years.

Graefe endures dialysis three times a week, which brings dietary constraints. “There will be a very definite lifestyle change,” says Graefe. “On the plus side, I should have a little more energy and a little less discomfort.” He hopes to maintain both his regular job and his weekend work as a minister for the Church of Christ in Folsom.

Wilson’s transplant serves as a positive reminder. “Jim has been encouraging and has made a big difference in the whole attitude and outlook that I’ve been able to maintain through all this,” Graefe says. “I’m really pleased that he’s doing well.

“I am optimistic,” he adds. “I believe God moves in mysterious ways. It will happen when it’s supposed to happen.”

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

February 2018

This community-curated exhibition brings together three painters—Alan Soffer, Brian Dickerson, and Moe Brooker—who are attuned to harmonies and contrasts in abstract forms. Each artist...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

The area’s largest sale of gently used books has been scheduled by the Wilmington branch of the American Association of University Women. The 49th annual Dollars for Scholars Used Book Sale, to...

Cost: free

Where:
Concord Mall
4737 Concord Pike
North Wilmington, DE  19803
View map »


Sponsor: American Association of University Women
Telephone: 302-428-0939

More information

By Simon Stephens (playwright of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time") Directed by Matt Pfeiffer REGIONAL PREMIERE! Amidst the bustle of a crowded London train...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Delaware Theatre Company
200 Water Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »

More information

A day of tomfoolery, debauchery and great beer. Come enjoy unlimited beer tastes from the best beers each Delaware brewery has to offer and YOU decide who wins the heavyweight belt for 2018. 

Cost: $29 online, $35 door

Where:
Crooked Hammock Brewery
36707 Crooked Hammock Way
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Sponsor: Crooked Hammock Brewery
Telephone: 302-644-7837
Contact Name: Jon Schorah
Website »

More information

The Singing Sergeants is the official chorus of the United States Air Force. Stationed at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C., the group is one of six musical ensembles that comprise...

Cost: Free

Where:
Loudis Recital Hall
110 Orchard Rd
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: University of Delaware Department of Music
Telephone: 130-283-12578
Contact Name: Megan Everhart
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Notbybreadalone Ministries presents Feeding the Hungry Outreach. All are welcome to come and partake of food, fun and fellowship. Those who desire a better way of life through Jesus Christ are...

Cost: Free

Where:
2nd and 3rd Streets
Wilmington, DE  19801


Sponsor: Notbybreadalone Outreach Ministries
Telephone: 442-0440
Contact Name: Ministers Wayne and Stephanie Dumpson
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will host a four-session diabetes educational program, The Diabetes Connection, on February 6, 13, 20 and 27 from 9:30 am to 11:30 am. Pre-registration is required. As...

Cost: Call for cost.

Where:
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital
801 Middleford Road
Seaford, DE  19973
View map »


Telephone: 302-629-6611 x2288
Contact Name: Nanticoke's Diabetes Education Department
Website »

More information

Soprano Alissa Rose is a native of Billings, Montana whose multi-faceted career has taken her around the United States and abroad.  She completed her Doctor of Musical Arts at the University of...

Cost: $15 adults; $10 UD faculty/staff/alumni & seniors; $5 students

Where:
Gore Recital Hall
110 Orchard Rd
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: University of Delaware Department of Music
Telephone: 130-283-12578
Contact Name: Megan Everhart
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

This community-curated exhibition brings together three painters—Alan Soffer, Brian Dickerson, and Moe Brooker—who are attuned to harmonies and contrasts in abstract forms. Each artist...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

FREE COMMUNITY EVENT: MID-WEEK WORD REFRESHER Come join us at the Mid-Week Word Refresher every Wednesday at Faith Victory Christian Center from 11:00am - 12:00pm. Refreshments will be...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Faith Victory Christian Center
301 Commonwealth Avenue
Claymont, DE  19703
View map »


Sponsor: Faith Victory Christian Center
Telephone: 302.354.6726
Contact Name: Alvin Walker
Website »

More information

Clearing the mind and learning to think not thinking is Zen awareness. Taking the appropriate action in this moment is Zen. Once you know this in your body, walking, standing, sitting down,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Newark
420 Willa Road
Newark, DE  19711
View map »


Sponsor: UUFN
Telephone: 302.368.2984
Contact Name: Richard Field
Website »

More information

An ensemble of five dynamic and brilliant players in their own right, Christiana Winds explores the exciting and unique tradition of wind chamber music from the 18th century to the present. In...

Cost: $15 adults; $10 UD faculty/staff/alumni & seniors; $5 students

Where:
Gore Recital Hall
110 Orchard Rd
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: University of Delaware Department of Music
Telephone: 130-283-12578
Contact Name: Megan Everhart
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

This community-curated exhibition brings together three painters—Alan Soffer, Brian Dickerson, and Moe Brooker—who are attuned to harmonies and contrasts in abstract forms. Each artist...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

Francesca Russello Ammon will explore the decades following World War II when rapid growth and construction in the United States coincided with a time of large-scale destruction. This author talk...

Cost: Free

Where:
Hagley Museum Soda House
298 Buck Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Hagley Museum and Library
Telephone: 302-658-2400
Contact Name: Carol Lockman
Website »

More information

Francesca Russello Ammon will explore the decades following World War II when rapid growth and construction in the United States coincided with a time of large-scale destruction. This author talk...

Cost: Free

Where:
Hagley Museum Soda House
298 Buck Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-658-2400
Contact Name: Carol Lockman
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Cokesbury Village White Elephant Sale March 2nd & 3rd, 2018 Furniture, clothing, jewelry, china, kitchenware, tools, appliances, pictures and picture frames, luggage, lamps, and books.

Cost: Free

Where:
Cokesbury Village
726 Loveville Rd
Hockessin, DE  19707
View map »


Sponsor: Cokesbury Village Residents Association
Telephone: 302-235-8578
Contact Name: John Prince

More information

This community-curated exhibition brings together three painters—Alan Soffer, Brian Dickerson, and Moe Brooker—who are attuned to harmonies and contrasts in abstract forms. Each artist...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

Glory of Stories introduces young visitors to art and the Museum through a story reading followed by an interactive tour of relevant works of art and a studio art project. This program encourages...

Cost: Free to Members, $5 per child and one adult free for Non-Members

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »

More information

This noontime lunch series on the first Friday of every month pairs an engaging 30-minute discussion about a work of art with a delicious lunch in the Thronson Café. Café lunch voucher included...

Cost: $12 Members, $14 Non-Members

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »

More information

Join us for the Art Loop Opening of Terence Roberts' photography exhibit - Inner Light. This show features light-paintings, photographs made at night of gardens, landscapes, and trees. The...

Cost: Free and open to the public

Where:
Delaware Center for Horticulture
1810 N. Dupont Street
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Sponsor: Art Loop Wilmington
Telephone: (302) 658-6262
Contact Name: Marcia Stephenson
Website »

More information

Based on the Dreamworks animated film, the adventures and antics of NYC zoo animals who escape and end up in Madagascar. Enjoy this rollicking youth musical.  Friday March 2nd at 7:00 p.m.,...

Cost: Free. Voluntary donations.

Where:
Aldersgate United Methodist Church
2301 Concord Pike
Wilmington, DE  19803
View map »


Sponsor: Aldersgate Youth Players
Telephone: 302-478-2575
Contact Name: Church office staff
Website »

More information

Meeting every Friday, Bayhealth Kent General Hospital, 640 s. State Street, Dover, 7:30 pm., Private Dining Room #3 in the basement. For those who have, or think they may have a gambling problem....

Cost: 0.00

Where:
Bayhealth Kent General Hospital
640 S. State Street
Private Dining Room #3
Dover, DE  19901
View map »


Telephone: 800-855-2CALLGA
Website »

More information

The Ruby Stanley One-Act Festival is a Drama League tradition.  Join us for a fun evening of one-act plays, and vote for your favorite to represent us at the regional festival.  Performances are...

Cost: $10.00

Where:
Wilmington Drama League
10 West Lea Blvd.
Wilmington, DE  19802
View map »


Sponsor: Wilmington Drama League
Telephone: 302-764-1172
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Cokesbury Village White Elephant Sale March 2nd & 3rd, 2018 Furniture, clothing, jewelry, china, kitchenware, tools, appliances, pictures and picture frames, luggage, lamps, and books.

Cost: Free

Where:
Cokesbury Village
726 Loveville Rd
Hockessin, DE  19707
View map »


Sponsor: Cokesbury Village Residents Association
Telephone: 302-235-8578
Contact Name: John Prince

More information

Build a model ship at home and enter it into our home-build contest! Build your ship at the Copelane Maritime Center using our STEM-based design plans! Free-play area for all ages, plus many...

Cost: Free

Where:
Kalmar Nyckel Foundation
1124 E. 7th Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »

More information

This community-curated exhibition brings together three painters—Alan Soffer, Brian Dickerson, and Moe Brooker—who are attuned to harmonies and contrasts in abstract forms. Each artist...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

Based on the Dreamworks animated film, the adventures and antics of NYC zoo animals who escape and end up in Madagascar. Enjoy this rollicking youth musical.  Friday March 2nd at 7:00 p.m.,...

Cost: Free. Voluntary donations.

Where:
Aldersgate United Methodist Church
2301 Concord Pike
Wilmington, DE  19803
View map »


Sponsor: Aldersgate Youth Players
Telephone: 302-478-2575
Contact Name: Church office staff
Website »

More information

The Ruby Stanley One-Act Festival is a Drama League tradition.  Join us for a fun evening of one-act plays, and vote for your favorite to represent us at the regional festival.  Performances are...

Cost: $10.00

Where:
Wilmington Drama League
10 West Lea Blvd.
Wilmington, DE  19802
View map »


Sponsor: Wilmington Drama League
Telephone: 302-764-1172
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit Module