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Mother hopes to save son's life with kidney " Headlines " The Norman Transcript


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Mother hopes to save son's life with kidney

NORMAN — Today, 18 people will die waiting for an organ, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Mary Blankenship Pointer wants to make sure her son, Nick, isn’t one of them. A little over 31 years ago, she gave him life. Now, through the donation of her kidney, she hopes to give him the gift of life again.

“He’s always been very special,” Mary Pointer said. “He’s always been my best friend.”

Nick Pointer attended Western Heights High School and is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. Mary Pointer, a long-time Cleveland County resident, is a senior vice president at UMB Bank, Oklahoma. She gives back to the community in numerous ways, including serving on the board of the Pioneer Library System. They are a typical American family and the road they have traveled these past few years is not one they could have predicted.

Nick Pointer is a health- conscious runner who never smoked, did drugs or drank excessively.

“He’s always made healthy choices his entire life,” his mother said.

She said her son rarely missed school because of illness and seemed to have above average health. Despite that, Nick Pointer’s kidneys have failed, and dialysis is keeping him alive as he waits on a transplant.

“My disorder is called idiosyncratic, which means they don’t know the cause,” he said. “Strep throat is one possible cause, but I don’t ever remember having strep throat.”

The first sign of trouble came in December 2005. Nick Pointer was 25 years old and had just gotten married to wife, Kristi, in September.

“I had some edema, swelling in my legs,” he said. “It was strange.”

When he saw blood in his urine, he immediately saw his doctor who referred him to a nephrologist, a doctor who specializes in kidneys.

“There’s a range of things it could have been,” Nick Pointer said.

Some of those things are more serious than others. To find out the cause of his symptoms, he was scheduled for a biopsy. Initially, his wife was concerned but not overly worried.

“Nick’s really good at downplaying things, so he made it seem routine,” Kristi Pointer said.

He said he was in denial — at age 25 he was feeling pretty invincible, but his mother remembers going to dinner with her son.

“He made me promise to always look after Kristi if anything happened to him,” Mary Pointer said.

After his disorder was diagnosed as MPGN he went through treatment and the disease went into remission for a time.

“It’s typically a 20 to 30 year progression to dialysis because of kidney failure,” he said.

The treatment was rough, and he had a couple of flare ups that required more treatment, but basically the young couple returned to life as normal.

In February, life threw them another lemon. The nurse called and told him the last treatment had not worked. He was immediately put on four days of dialysis.

“It was a shock,” he said.

He lost 16 pounds as the dialysis removed toxic fluids from his body. A surgeon told him, he was a good candidate for a transplant because of his age and health.

Being young and relatively healthy does not move you up on the donor list, however. DHS reports there are an average of 79 people who receive organ transplants each day, but there are 114,223 people are waiting for an organ. A single organ donor can save up to eight lives.

“I’ve seen a lot of people much worse off than I am,” Nick Pointer said. “There’s a lot of pain invovled in dialysis. A new kidney can change their lives. Dialysis is a very intrusive situation to be in. It’s part of your everyday life — there’s never a day off from it.”

Fortunately for Nick Pointer, there is a living donor available to give him a kidney — his mother.

Mary Pointer is going through the process and so far everything is moving along well.

“I have 12 tests that I have to take,” she said.

She made it over the first two hurdles of matching blood type and antigens.

“We’re hopeful,” Nick Pointer said. “Personally, my view is take it one step at a time.”

“The best case is to have a pool of possible donors,” Mary Pointer said.

Family and friends can be a match, but the best case scenario is usually from a sibling, they said.

Kristi Pointer said she has made it through the treatments, tests and hospitalizations because her husband has been so strong. He continues to work despite the demands of constant dialysis.

There are two types of dialysis, and Nick Pointer has chosen a lengthy night procedure while he he tries to sleep. The procedure allows him to keep his days free for work.

Treatment is expensive. Insurance and Medicare help with costs, but he said while Medicare helps in the case of kidney failure and transplant, there are people who need other organs that Medicare does not cover.

The Pointers have kept their ordeal reasonable private. There is no room in Nick Pointer’s life for self-pity. But the family would like to share what they have learned with others — there is a great need for organ donors.

As important as it is to sign up to be an organ donor in the case of sudden death, living donors are also very important said the Pointer family.

And someone who is tested for a friend or family member but is not a match, may get an opportunity to help someone else if they so choose.

“You’re not forced to do anything,” Nick Pointer said.

The privacy of donors is protected, and if a potential donor gets cold feet, the recepient never knows anything except that it didn’t work out.

There’s a very thorough screening process, and donors can back out up until the very last minute if they change their minds.

Living donors pay none of the medical costs. In the case of deceased donors, the families or estates also do not incur any cost as a result of an organ donation.

Nick Pointer feels lucky to have a mother who is dedicated to making sure he gets a second shot at a long and normal life. But he’s also grateful for the challenges he’s faced since illness struck in 2005.

“I think that it’s made me more appreciateive of my time, more driven to accomplish things,” he said. “It’s ultimately given me an opportunity to live a better life than I would have otherwise.”

The devotion of his family has meant a lot as well. Wife Kristi stayed by his bedside through the worst of times.

And his mother?

To steal a line from the movie “Steel Magnolias”: “At least they know how much they mean to each other.”

For Mary Blankenship Pointer, the chance to give her son life twice is a gift both can share.

Joy Hampton 366-3539 jhampton@ normantranscript.com

May 13, 2012 4 Photos

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Associated Press content © 2012. All rights reserved. AP content may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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