IU Health University Hospital

Dad of Six, National Advocate for Kidney Health

Patient Stories

January 29, 2019

When Martinlow Spaulding showed up at the office of a former member of US Congress advocating for patients with chronic kidney disease, he was asked, “Where’s the kidney patient?” He was the patient.

The license plate on Martinlow Spaulding’s black Ford Edge is brief and to the point: “IP4Rita.” It’s the second plate with an edgy message. The first read: “IP4Paul.”

Plain and simple, the messages speak volumes. Spaulding is the recipient of not one but two gifts of life – both donated by his older siblings. His first transplant was Oct. 6, 1993; a kidney donated by brother Paul Spaulding. His second transplant was June 2, 2004, a kidney donated by this sister Rita Bailey. He also has a sister Susan Woosley.

The siblings were raised in Scottsburg, In. – just 30 miles north of Louisville, KY. – by Frank and Joyce Spaulding. Their father died at the age of 69 – just months after his youngest son received his second transplant.

The New Year marks a milestone for the youngest Spaulding. He recently celebrated 25 years since his first transplant and 15 years since his second transplant.

So what about that license plate on his vehicle? “I believe in humor. Laughter is important. All my kids can tell you I have a lot of bad jokes,” said Spaulding, 53, a payroll specialist with the Metropolitan School District of Warren Township. He also named his car “Sara” after his college vocal coach. A graduate of Marian University, Spaulding received his undergraduate degree in music, theater, and business and a Master’s in Administration from the University of New Orleans. He was named the first male to receive Marian’s Young Alumni Award for demonstrating the St. Francis values of human dignity, respect, and character. His personal motto: “Live for others through your faith.”

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Labor Day of 1991, Spaulding was home with his nine-month-old when he became ill. They were living in Oldenburg at the time – about 90 minutes north of his childhood home. “I had been helping my family bale hay all day and I thought it was just the heat that made me sick,” said Spaulding. In no time at all he was in the ER. Heart attack and stroke were ruled out but tests showed his kidneys were only functioning at two percent. Eventually he went on home dialysis awaiting a kidney transplant. His family members were tested for compatibility and his brother Paul was a perfect match. In the meantime, Spaulding raised funds to cover out-of-pocked medical expenses and missed work time for family.

“I’m 6’3 and 240 pounds and my brother is 5’7 and 180 pounds but we were a match,” said Spaulding. A year after the transplant, his lab work indicated the disease was returning – again attacking his kidneys. “They thought I’d get a year out of the kidney but I made it to ten years,” said Spaulding. He again raised funds to cover expenses for a second transplant.

Spaulding’s life had changed considerably since his first transplant. His career had taken off, and his family had grown. His greatest treasures are his five daughters and one son. They include Aimee Spaulding, a senior at Warren Central High School; Liz Spaulding, a student at IU Bloomington who aspires to a career in broadcasting; Emma Spaulding, a Speech Language Pathology major at Ball state University; Anna Spaulding, who attended the University of Southern Indiana who works as a title manager for Indiana Auto Auctions; Andrew Spaulding, who attended Franklin College on a swimming scholarship and now serves as the director of programming for Scouts of America in Iowa; and Olivia Reel, a graduate of IU who teaches in Lawrence Township.

As he entered the operating room for his second transplant under the care of IU Health surgeon William C. Goggins, Spaulding recalls saying: “Bill, I’ve got six kids. Don’t mess this up.” He remains in the care of IU Health nephrologist Dr. Asif A. Sharfuddin.

Although he’s maintained a sense of humor along with his good health, Spaulding is serious when it comes to advocating for fellow kidney patients. Since his last transplant, he continues one-on-one patient education, and fundraising for others in need of transplants. And over the years he has pursued careers in the arts – The Indianapolis Shakespeare Festival, and the Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra – and has also remained committed to serving others – both personally and professionally.

He volunteers at the Warren Sonny Day Food & Clothing Pantry and is in his 23rd year of teaching Catholic religion to seventh and eighth graders at Holy Spirit Church. As the former Executive Director of the Arc of Hancock County, he established Dream Makers a performance-based troupe – recognized by the National Organization on Disability (Washington, D.C.) as the “second best inclusive program in America.”

After his second transplant Spaulding became an independent contractor with the Renal Support Network, a nonprofit kidney patient-focused organization that offers support to individuals with kidney disease. His role took him to 44 different states as a motivational speaker addressing patient and professional clubs and organizations, and facilitating empowerment and improvement workshops. He also spent years lobbying in the nation’s capital for the Kidney Care Quality Improvement Act.

On a visit to the Washington, D.C. offices of then member of Congress, Julia Carson he was asked: “Where is the kidney patient,” and Spaulding answered, “Here I am.” During his time with The Renal Support Network (serving Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Illinois) he twice received the national Robert Felter Patient Award, recognizing his contributions to serving those with kidney disease.

The passion has carried over to his only son. At IU Health, Andrew Spaulding created a “Celebration of Life” outdoor sanctuary for his Eagle Scout project in the spring of 2012 recognizing all living organ donors. The area includes a commemorative plaque that reads: “Celebration of Life Park for Living Donors. Dedicated to Rita Bailey and Paul Spaulding for giving the ‘gift of life’ to my dad Martinlow Spaulding.”

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Spaulding recently celebrated his own gift of life at the marriage of his first child. Olivia (Spaulding) Reel was just 22 months old when her dad received his first transplant. And on the same date – October 6 – Spaulding took his daughter’s hand and led her onto the dance floor at Maple Creek Country Club where they danced to “Butterfly Kisses,” recorded by Spaulding.

“I’m thankful, so blessed to be in excellent health. I exercise three times a week at the YMCA and I haven’t been hospitalized since 2004, my second gift of life,” said Spaulding. “I think it’s most important to work with your healthcare team but you also have to be a self-advocate and stay in charge of your health – making sure all your doctors communicate with each other.”

-- By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health.
Reach Banes via email tfender1@iuhealth.org.

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