Houston man saves neighbor's life, becomes oldest living kidney donor in US

Frank Dewhurst, 84, meets with 72-year old Linda Nall after giving her his kidney. Dewhurst became the oldest living kidney donor in the United States.
Frank Dewhurst, 84, meets with 72-year old Linda Nall after giving her his kidney. Dewhurst became the oldest living kidney donor in the United States. (Houston Methodist Hospital)

HOUSTON – It's a story of a man going above and beyond to grant his neighbor a new lease on life.

Frank Dewhurst lives six houses down from Linda Nall and knew for years that her kidneys were failing.

When Nall put up a sign asking for a kidney donation, Dewhurst decided to make the leap of faith.

“The sign read ‘I am type O and I need a kidney transplant. Please help me.’ So after talking it over with my wife, I told her she could have mine,” Dewhurst said. “After undergoing a number of tests I was cleared to donate and very happy to do so.”

Dewhurst is a past president of the neighborhood's homeowners association, so when he knocked on Nall's door, she initially thought he would be telling her to remove the sign from her yard.

“When he told me he wanted to give me his kidney, I was shocked. It’s an incredible thing he has done for me and I am so grateful,” Nall said.

Dewhurst retired from IBM after 30 years and said he watched his neighbor struggle to get out of her car.

In 1986, Nall was diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease that, in 2001, attacked her kidneys. She was put on a strict diet and eventually went on dialysis for a brief period before Dewhurst stepped in.

“I can’t wait to spend more time with family and friends and just socialize more,” Nall said. “I have lived a long time not being able to eat what I want to eat and do what I want to do. I am going to make the most of Frank’s generous gift and live life to the fullest. I cannot wait.”

Houston Methodist Hospital officials said: "More than 100,000 people are waiting for kidneys and only one out of three of these patients are transplanted within three years. Nearly 5% of these people die every year waiting."

Dewhurst was able to leave the hospital within 48 hours after surgery and is back to exercising and resuming normal activities.

“On average, over 60 percent of kidneys from living donors last greater than 10 years in comparison to 46 percent from deceased donors,” said Dr. Hassan Ibrahim, chief of kidney diseases at Houston Methodist Hospital. “This is why we encourage patients to find a living donor whose odds of never having kidney problems after transplant exceed 99 percent.”

Ibrahim said a common misconception is that older people cannot be donors because of their age. He said it's not true and more than 200 people over the age of 70 have become living donors in the United States since 1995.

“Besides Mr. Dewhurst, we have taken kidneys from an 80-year old, a 79-year old and other donors in their late 60s and early 70s,” Ibrahim said. “They receive a full workup to make sure they are physically strong enough to donate. If everything checks out, there is no reason to keep them from saving someone’s life. In 2018, 5% of kidney donors nationally were older than 65. If more older adults donated, fewer people would remain on the list.”

Ibrahim said the best use of older kidneys is to transplant them into older patients.