George Edward Franklin, III learned to crochet when he was 18 years old. His grandmother “Big Alease,” taught her grandson the creative hobby for a good reason.
“She didn’t want me wasting six hours, three times a week doing nothing but laying in the bed on dialysis! Fifty odd years later, I still crochet,” Franklin said.
Dialysis—a treatment that filters the blood— is called hemodialysis when a person goes to a dialysis center for the procedure. Franklin underwent hemodialysis each Monday, Wednesday and Friday as a teenager. He recalls arriving at the George Washington University Medical Center during mornings in 1972. After six hours of treatment, he would be taken off the dialysis machine.
“I remember doing dialysis. I used to suffer from really bad cramps, usually in my legs,” Franklin said.
He also remembered that he was the eldest hemodialysis patient at the George Washington Hospital Center, back then. Several other teenagers and a 12-year-old were in Franklin’s company.
“Being the oldest, a male and a comic, I was usually the one that kept things lively! We had a black and white TV donated and we all got hooked on watching the soaps,” Franklin said. “Outside of the “good” days, however, I remember feeling cheated in life.”
Franklin recalls feeling like having kidney problems happened to older people, not younger ones like him or youth who came to the center for hemodialysis treatments. Unfortunately, Franklin found out that sometimes youth could experience kidney failure, too.
Dialysis sapped a lot of emotional and physical energy from Franklin for three years. Despite needing it, there were days when he hated trekking to get treatment. Kidney failure sometimes caused him to feel weak, woozy, experience dry itching skin and depression. He could not do things that many teenagers could, including eating whatever he wanted.
Franklin needed to start hemodialysis about four months after high school graduation because the one kidney that he was born with failed. He discovered that he was born with only one kidney after he became very ill at 18 years old and an x-ray revealed it.
“The cause of my kidney failure was glomerulonephritis,” Franklin said.
Glomerulonephritis is a type of kidney disease where tiny kidney filters become inflamed. His kidney could not do its job.
Regardless of this medical challenge, Franklin graduated from Frank W. Ballou High School’s class of 1972. There was no outward appearance that he had a medical problem until doctors discovered that his kidney failed and his blood pressure was high. He started hemodialysis approximately five months after graduating from high school.
Franklin’s first kidney transplant occurred in April of 1975.
“Sadly, the transplant was removed a week or two later as it had a massive rejection,” Franklin said.
Franklin never stopped hemodialysis.
He recalls returning to the George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. for a second transplant surgery. His successful kidney transplant was completed on November 4, 1975, six months after the first kidney transplant. He finally was able to stop hemodialysis because he was able to constantly make urine.
He added, “That’s the kidney that’s still working!”
Franklin said that he now holds the record for being the longest African-American kidney transplant recipient with a deceased donor kidney in the nation.
“Life started after getting that second kidney,” Franklin said, while recounting his journey.
After his second kidney transplant, Franklin gained weight, his strength increased, he was able to sleep well, go to work and visit family members who lived a distance away.
Franklin shared that his second donor was a white female who perished in a car accident. The Cumberland, Maryland resident reflects on his sentiment that he is most grateful for life. He currently volunteers for Donate Life and Infinite Legacy. Infinite Legacy is a nonprofit that saves and enhances lives through organ, eye and tissue donation. Donate Life Maryland handles registrations of the state’s organ, eye and tissue donors.
“I also spend a lot of time providing information in several Facebook groups related to organ and tissue donation. I also volunteer for the National Kidney Foundation, American Heart Association, and I am on several committees statewide involving organ and tissue donation and kidney disease,” Franklin said.
Franklin remarked that people considering organ, eye and tissue donation should move forward with signing up to become a donor.
He added, “I would tell them about me, the nearly 48 years that I’ve lived and about all of the things that have happened in my life, because of the angel who signed an organ donation card!”
Please visit Donate Life Maryland via https://www.donatelifemaryland.org/ to learn more about organ, eye and tissue donation.