SPRING HILL — Darrel Oppedal and his daughter, Brianne, no longer just share a genetic history. They now have a kidney in common.
The popular owner of Country Kitchen in Brooksville and an active member of the Kiwanis Club of Brooksville who has long been recognized for his community endeavors, Darrel Oppedal was diagnosed with the first symptom of polycystic kidney disease 12 years ago.
The hereditary ailment is slow but progressive. "Slow it down is all you can do," Darrel, 53, said recently. His kidney function was down to 10 percent and he was two weeks away from requiring dialysis.
"We knew (a transplant) was a possibility," he said.
A local nephrologist advised him last January to start a transplant workup. Brianne, 23, immediately wanted to be tested to see if she was a match, her father said.
Brianne said her decision was easy.
"When the clinical appointment found that I was a universal donor, then three weeks later I found out I was a match, then I found out I was a healthy donor," her course was clear.
A test also determined that Brianne didn't carry the polycystic kidney disease, which had been transmitted from her grandfather.
The thought of giving up one of her two healthy kidneys "didn't scare me," said Brianne, a sixth-grade reading teacher and assessment counselor at J.D. Floyd Elementary School. "That part never bothered me."
After months of physical and nephrology tests, blood works, ultrasounds and psychological counseling, father and daughter were deemed ready to go.
Wife and mother Jan Oppedal stood by their sides.
The date of the transplant, July 2, was "a very long day," Darrel said.
A team of surgeons at Tampa General Hospital removed one of Brianne's kidneys in a five-hour operation. While Brianne rested in recovery, doctors checked the organ to ascertain that it would perform as tests said it would.
Another surgical team took on the transplanting in a similarly long operation.
A mere six days after the operation, Darrel left the hospital.
"We're doing good," he said. "We're having some surgical incision pain. The kidney is doing awesome. We call it the bionic kidney. One of the tests shows it's as normal as anybody's."
The recipient is on anti-rejection drugs, which will be adjusted as recovery progresses and his immunosuppression system takes hold. Meanwhile, he must avoid crowds and anyone with such a minor affliction as a cold to avoid infection.
Brianne, on the other hand, is recovering as a surgical patient. "Basically, her life won't change but the kidney she has will grow in size," Darrel said.
"I'm feeling pretty good," Brianne said. "We finally got it done."
An insistent Darrel, now promised a longer and healthier life, said, "The underlying message here needs to be about organ donation and how important it is. Sign up for it when you get your (driver's) license renewed."
Father and daughter recently took the platform in front of the Kiwanis Club. "Donate your organs when you don't need them anymore," he urged.
Signups can be made at the Web site, www.organdonor.gov.
Beth Gray can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.