KALISPELL — A Kalispell man who's been waiting for a kidney transplant for almost three years has been forced to be put on a waitlist in Arizona due to a lack of kidney transplant centers in Montana.
Todd Patterson, an avid hunter, horse packer and skijorer, suffered a heart attack 11 years ago on a hunting trip. By the time he got to the hospital, his organs had begun to shut down.
Following eight years of related heart procedures, he was diagnosed with Stage 5 kidney failure and began dialysis.
“You know that's, I can't even begin to explain how that feels, what it does to your body. So, you know for me to be able to get a transplant and be able to go back to more normal life,” explained Patterson.
Patterson gets dialysis two times a week for three to four hours, which is a mild treatment compared to some patients who must go four times a week.
“And it doesn't fit with my lifestyle because I spent a lot of time in the summers with the pack string packing in the backcountry. it has me tied down. I can't just go off,” said Patterson.
A patient can be on a waiting list for years, with no guarantee of a transplant which can come from a living or deceased donor.
“Three to five years when you're 70 is a long time and I like to be able to get off the dialysis and get back to my normal life,” said Patterson.
Patterson is on two transplant lists at hospitals in Arizona.
Due to COVID-19, transplant centers in Washinton were not doing transplants because they were deemed elective surgeries, forcing him to go to Arizona. “It's not an elective surgery. You know, it's a matter of life or death,” exclaimed Patterson.
After a kidney is harvested, it is only viable for 24 to 36 hours — and Arizona is a 20-hour drive, with no direct airline flights offered from Kalispell.
“Man, I'll tell you what if there was if there was a facility here in Montana that would be that would be outstanding. Because, you know, we're so rural, that it really adds a whole new dynamic to the whole situation because of the travel time." - Todd Patterson
Patterson has watched the health of other dialysis patients decline, requiring them to be in a wheelchair or walker. “And that quite frankly scares me to death because I don't want that I don't want a life connected to a machine,” said Patterson.
Patients never know when they will get a call that there is a viable donor.
“And then not knowing is one of the things that I've had to adjust to. It's really tough. It's in God's hands and you know, he has a plan whatever it is, and I'm happy with that,” Patterson said.