SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - It’s a side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic: blood banks across the country have seen a drastic drop in donations, leaving hospitals on short supply of this life-saving material. Doctors have been forced to cancel surgeries and many patients in need have been forced to wait, putting their health at risk.
In September of 2020, KSLA held a blood drive outside its Shreveport studio in an effort to help LifeShare Blood Centers restock its shelves. Several of the station’s staff members rolled up their sleeves to donate. Among them was morning show anchor, Adria Goins. What she didn’t know was hours later, her donation would connect her to a Shreveport man for life.
Hours after the KSLA blood drive, Kelvin Boles received an important phone call from a state organ donation center.
“She said, ‘Sir, I have good news for you. We have a kidney and a pancreas.’ I was so excited I hung up the phone on the woman,” said Boles, who was told in 2020 one of his kidneys was failing due to his Type 1 diabetes diagnosis.
He was told he would need a double kidney/pancreas transplant after enduring years of health challenges and hospital stays.
“It’s been a long, ongoing process. I lost my eyesight for about a year in 2015. In September of 2019, I got up from bed and fell to the ground because I couldn’t walk. When I got to the hospital, I was told I had a stroke.”
That’s when the process of rehab and looking for an organ donor began.
It all seemed to line up in Boles’ favor with the blood drive at KSLA leading to a donation of his rare blood type, and hours later getting the call he would receive the two organs needed for his transplant.
“To find the rare blood type so quickly was a blessing,” he said.
Boles’ father, Thomas, got the call from his son telling him of the good news.
“He was excited and I kept asking, ‘What’s wrong?’ He told me to come home because they found a kidney and a pancreas. I rushed home. It was so joyful. We were driving and thanking the Lord as we headed to the hospital,” Thomas said.
The Boles family knew the transplant meant another family made the ultimate sacrifice: losing a loved one. They hope to one day meet the donor’s family to thank them for their kindness.
Boles underwent an eight-hour surgery at Willis-Knighton Health Systems. Dr. Gazi Zibari was one of the transplant surgeons who worked on Boles.
“We all know an operation might go very smoothly and you might not need blood, but there’s a chance you could need five, 10, or 20 bags. We didn’t want to take a risk,” the doctor said.
Dr. Zibari says he hasn’t had to halt a transplant surgery during the pandemic because of a lack of blood yet, but just recently, he and his team were very close to having to do just that.
“We had a patient who was very sick and needed a liver transplant badly and the blood center didn’t have enough blood. The hospital worked hard to track some down. In fact, the family put a call out and more than 20 people donated for the patient that day. We were very close to not being able to do the surgery,” he said.
Boles says he’s very grateful to everyone who came together to make his transplant happen. He says he’s nearly back to 100% with his recovery. He’s still using a walker to get around, but says he hopes with more rehab, he won’t need it soon. He also says he’s already started playing the drums again and playing with his nieces and nephews.
He has also made a connection with Adria that will last a lifetime.