Donate Life Month: Randy's Kidney Transplant Story

Just a year ago, master photographer Randy Bick was compiling 200 of his finest photographs spanning a 35-year career — in preparation for his own funeral. “I was so weak, I could barely climb stairs. I thought I was dying. I had no energy to do anything,” he recalls.

After awaiting a kidney donation for more than five years, he became critically ill in March 2017. He asked a friend to drive him to The Christ Hospital, where he remained for almost two weeks. “They put me on hemodialysis, pulling my blood out, cleaning it and putting it back. They told my sister they didn’t think I was going to make it. Miraculously, the dialysis began to work.”

Randy still had little energy when he left the hospital. Hemodialysis three to four days a week was barely keeping him alive. The donor process hadn’t yielded results, because only 6.6 percent of the population has Randy’s blood type, O negative.

Then, on June 29, 2017, he received a call from The Christ Hospital Health Network transplant team that they had a kidney for him. A young Cincinnati man had died from a heroin overdose, and his parents donated his kidneys. Because the young man’s kidneys carried a risk of transmitting syphilis, HIV and hepatitis C, families of two young children on the transplant list had declined the organs.

Randy knew he was dying without a donor kidney, so on June 30, he gratefully accepted the kidney.

Miracle Man

Randy considers his successful kidney transplant to be his third miracle of the decade. The work of his kidney just two days post-surgery was “absolutely amazing,” according to the transplant staff. At three months, he learned he hadn’t contracted any diseases from the donor. 

 “I’m very fortunate to get a 25-year-old kidney that’s working so well,” he says.

His second miracle was overcoming the crisis in March when hemodialysis revived him.

Surpassing both of those, the first miracle happened in 2010 while he was on the operating table for prostate surgery. His heart stopped for multiple minutes and required seven shocks before it restarted. Initial fears about whether he’d regain full creative and thinking abilities were groundless: his brain made a full recovery. The trauma took a toll on his kidneys, however.

“This eight-year period has been a roller coaster,” Randy acknowledges. “Odds are that I shouldn’t really be here. I really do feel like a miracle man.”

He has high praise for the staff at The Christ Hospital, his miracle workers. “I know so many people at the hospital,” he says. “From the guy who wheeled me down to surgery to the transplant team, everyone has been just great.”

A patient accounts representative helped obtain money from a special charity fund to cover significant out-of-pocket expenses. “To go through this ordeal and have no financial obligations afterwards is a miracle in and of itself. I’ll always be grateful to The Christ Hospital,” Randy says.

Focusing on New Priorities

Randy says it took a number of months to recover, and he’s still adjusting. “I had to go back and change my whole perception from dying to living,” he explains.

He continues, “I’ve become more spiritual. I don’t have time for ‘drama’ anymore. I’m doing a lot of charity work for the Salvation Army, and I’ll photograph the 2018 Cincinnati Kidney Walk.”

He’s retired from wedding photography, where he built his reputation, but he enjoys shooting Cincinnati scenes and family portraits. Randy fully believes in “taking the talent God gave you and using it in a beneficial way. I’m making the best use of my time with things that have meaning.”

Click to learn more about living kidney donation, and you'll find answers to frequently asked questions! Or call our kidney transplant team at 513-585-2493.