“I said this to other donors and family we talked to about it. I said we’re looking for donors, but you should know I will be first in line,” said Paul Malik. When Paul knew his wife needed a kidney transplant, he didn’t hesitate to get tested. And it turned out that the Naperville couple is a match.
On January 23, Beth Malik will have her second kidney transplant. The 55-year old was born with a congenital defect to her kidneys. When she was two, doctors found that one of her kidneys wasn’t functional and the other was around 50% functional. She continued to “live a normal life” until she was 18 years old. Beth began to lose her hearing and only weighed 70 pounds.
“They waited to do a kidney transplant because the steroids they put you on stunts your growth,” said Beth. At that point it was time for a kidney transplant, which she received form her sister. Now 36 years later, Beth needs a new kidney.
In March 2021, she went to the Edward Hospital emergency room. Doctors found that her blood pressure was high, her kidney functionality was at less than 5%, and she had a tumor on her uterus. “It was devastating, it was a lot of negative stuff in a small amount of time,” said Beth.
She underwent a hysterectomy and “the mass was benign,” said Paul. Afterwards as the search for a donor began and Paul’s tests were coming back a match. “I cried. We cried. We’re crying now actually,” said Beth. “From the very beginning it was always the right thing to do,” said Paul.
Beth said she was never told that there may be a possibility she would need another kidney eventually, but doctors “were very surprised” that her kidney was healthy enough for this long. “Knowing my wife, it is better over the last 36 years that she has not been looking at a date on a calendar or wondering every year if her kidney is going to fail,” said Paul.
Challenges for the Couple
That doesn’t mean the journey for the past few months has been easy for them both. The couple, married in Hawaii 20 years ago, has two children. There were things like family traditions and college visits that Beth couldn’t be a part of. She and her family have had to take extra precautions so she doesn’t contract COVID-19 or even the flu.
“I think my family life has been definitely compromised. I think my kids are effected. I don’t see them being effected, but I know they are because they don’t say much,” said Beth. “I just want to be where I can somewhat function and live my life however long that’s going to be.”
“For me, it’s been so overwhelming to suddenly become a primary caregiver for my spouse. What’s kept me going is there’s so much to do and it’s just about being focused. You just [put] one foot in front of the other every single day to get to the place,” said Paul. “Now we’re going to Mayo Clinic next week and this will become just another chapter and we’ll open a new chapter.”
They will be reaching the end of that chapter on January 23. Beth and Paul are headed to the medical center in Rochester, Minnesota for their surgery. She will need to stay there for 30 days, and Paul should be out of the hospital by the second or third day.
The couple hopes that by sharing their story, they are giving others hope and can encourage more people to become organ donors.
“[The motivation was] to tell people who are lined up today maybe for a first kidney transplant that hey look, kidney transplants – even from 36 years ago – lasted 36 years,” said Paul. “Imagine how lucky you’re going to be getting a transplant today and how well that kidney is going to do if you take good care of it.”
While the hope is that this will help others going through the same experience get through it, what’s kept Beth going all this time?
“The love of my husband because he’s been from day one – ‘I’m going to give it. Even though we’re having other people test, I’m going to give it,'” said Beth.
Naperville News 17’s Aysha Ashley Househ reports.