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A One-of-a-Kind Lifeline: A First Responder’s Kidney Health Journey

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A One-of-a-Kind Lifeline: A First Responder’s Kidney Health Journey
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Like the more than 25 million first responders in the United States, Jeff Cooper, a former deputy in the Broward County Polygraph Unit, took an oath to protect and serve his community.

However, like many first responders, Cooper’s promise did not necessarily extend to himself — until a worsening medical condition forced him to focus on his health. Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) affects more than seven million people worldwide, and in 1975 Cooper became one of those impacted by the disease. His PKD diagnosis, a hereditary condition, took him on a journey that would not only give him access to an innovative new technology, but would also allow him to experience remarkable camaraderie that would eventually stretch beyond the oath to protect and serve.

A Lifeline for Patients with End-Stage Renal Disease

PKD is a genetic disorder that causes cysts to develop on the kidneys — making them enlarge and lose function. This hereditary condition can lead to the final stage of chronic kidney disease, also known as “end-stage renal disease.” This condition requires more than 70% of patients to undergo dialysis — a process of removing waste products and flushing excess fluid from the blood to keep kidneys functioning and patients alive — or undergo a kidney transplant.Before receiving dialysis, some patients undergo a procedure that creates an access point to their bloodstream, often referred to as a lifeline for dialysis, Arteriovenous (AV) fistulas are created by connecting a vein and artery in the arm, allowing the patient to begin dialysis.

Growing up with a father who underwent dialysis for many years, Cooper saw the side effects of the common, surgically created fistulas on his father’s arms (like large, swollen veins) and hoped for a less invasive option that would allow him to continue his normal, active life.While working with his doctor, Cooper discovered the Ellipsys Vascular Access System — a less invasive option for creating AV fistulas that’s done through an out-patient procedure. While potential risks associated with creation and maintenance of arteriovenous fistula exist, the Ellipsys procedure can cut the time between fistula creation to dialysis from six months to two months, potentially translating into accelerated dialysis treatment.

A New Outlook, Another Miracle

Cooper received his Ellipsys- created fistula on December 4, 2020, giving him access to life-saving dialysis. Cooper said he was amazed at how fast he could return to everyday activities after the Ellipsys procedure.After only a few months of adjusting to his new fistula and starting treatment, Cooper received another life-changing surprise. In early February 2021, Guy Kitchens — coincidentally, a police officer in a neighboring county –gave his fellow officer the ultimate gift — Kitchens donated his kidney to Cooper.

Thanks to Officer Kitchens, Cooper says he feels like a kid again. His kidney function is improving, his doctors are dialing back his medications, and best of all, he’s formed a lifelong friendship with Guy, with whom he talks almost daily.”I’ve got a little brother now and another extended family,” Cooper says. “I’ve got a living angel in my life.”Without his Ellipsys created fistula and dialysis treatment leading up to that life-changing day in February, Cooper’s story might have been more challenging. Please consult with your doctor to see if this procedure is right for you — results may vary.

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