Diane Clarke gladly gave her husband, Bob, a kidney – for his own sake, and for the sake of their daughter, Sara.
“I am among the first group of quads that are living a normal lifespan,” says Bob Clarke, 50, who became a C8 quadriplegic at age 13 in 1972. “It’s scary and sad, but when I was in rehab, I was told that I only had about 10 years to live, and I went through life thinking that way. Every 10 years, I celebrate!”
When Clarke was injured, bladder management was in its infancy. Renal (kidney) failure was the leading cause of death for people with SCI. In rehab at Rancho Los Amigos, Clarke was voiding on a regular basis, so a condom catheter and leg bag was deemed a good management option. In reality, it wasn’t. Clarke’s spastic bladder and tight sphincter caused reflux — urine backed up through his ureters into the kidneys, causing kidney damage, but with no symptoms. Eventually the reflux blew out the one-way valves that let urine pass from the ureters into the bladder. Bacteria now had a clear pathway back to Clarke’s kidneys.
When Clarke was in college at USC he started getting kidney infections requiring hospitalization and IV antibiotics. “I probably got the infections because I was yo