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This kidney crossed three state lines and fulfilled a promise by a living donor

IU Health University Hospital

This kidney crossed three state lines and fulfilled a promise by a living donor

Joseph “Duke” Junod is no stranger to organ donation. When his wife received a kidney transplant, he vowed to “pay it forward” if he ever had the chance.

By TJ Banes, IU Health Senior Journalist, tfender1@iuhealth.org

He knew it four years ago. He remembered it last year.

“When my wife got her kidney transplant, I stayed in her hospital room all night and I told the good Lord that when I’m able I want to donate a kidney,” said Joseph “Duke” Junod.

It was October 2019 when Junod’s wife, Joanna received a kidney transplant. Her donor was the mother of her grandson. Junod had been tested and wasn’t a match for his wife, but he hoped someday he would be a match for someone else. That day came in December 2022.

Joseph “Duke” Junod and wife

“Kidneys are kind of thing in our family,” said Junod, 59, of Oaktown, Ind., just north of Vincennes. Joanna Junod, 60, was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease (PKD), a hereditary disease that causes cysts to develop on the kidneys. Her mother also had it and a sister died of complications from the disease. The Junods have two children, a daughter, Hannah, 25, an elementary teacher, and Colton, 26, who is studying emergency medicine.

Joanna received her transplant at IU Health in the care of Dr. William Goggins. Years went by, and the Junods reconnected with a family friend Byron Wolfe, 69, who lives in Villa Hills, Kty. Joanna Junod and Karla Wolfe have been friends since childhood. It was at the funeral of Karla’s mother in Evansville when the two families met up. It was there that they learned that Byron Wolfe needed a kidney transplant.

April is National Donate Life Month, a time to recognize those who are organ donors and a time to encourage others to register for organ donation. According to Donate Life Indiana, more than 100,000 men, women and children nationally are waiting at any given moment for a lifesaving organ transplant. More than 1,000 of those waiting are Hoosiers. Last year 4.2 million Hoosiers signed up to be organ donors; 276 organ donors saved the lives of others needing lifesaving transplants, 949 lifesaving organs were transplanted to recipients.

At IU Health, organ recipients receive both living and deceased kidney transplantation. A living kidney donor isn’t necessarily related to the recipient. Compatibility is based on blood type and tissue typing. Age and size are also taken into consideration. If a healthy donor is incompatible with the intended recipient, the donor may opt to be part of paired donation. Also known as “donor swap” recipient /donor pairs are matched according to compatibility. Over the years, IU Health’s kidney transplant team has performed a number of paired donations. Some chains have included multiple people.

It was during the hour-long drive home from Evansville to Oaktown, that Duke Junod became quiet.

“I started crying as we walked to the car and Joanna just shook her head. Nothing more needed to be said. She knew what I was thinking and I knew what she was thinking,” said Duke Junod. He found out on May 13, 2022 that he was a match for Wolfe. They jumped in the car and drove more than three hours to Wolfe’s home to tell him the news.

In December 2022, Junod went to IU Health University Hospital where he was in the care of Dr. John Powelson. After his kidney was removed it was transported to The Christ Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio where doctors performed Wolfe’s transplant.

Five days later, on Christmas Eve, Wolfe was at home celebrating his gift of life.

“When Byron’s situation came up, I started praying. I’m a very spiritual man and I believe the Lord opened every door,” said Junod. He said he was released from the hospital in a matter of days, adhered to weight restrictions for six weeks but was out walking two weeks after surgery.

“This has rocked my world in a good way. I said I wanted to do this for someone else and it happened just as it was planned.”

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