Man looks for kidney donor for the fourth time

Posted at 9:13 AM, May 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-03 09:14:28-04

KENTWOOD, Mich. -- It's said that the third time is a charm, but for Joe Pettinga of Kentwood, three kidneys were not enough.

Now, he's looking for a fourth.

For Joe, the most noteworthy events in his life are his wedding day, the births of his two children and three -- yes three -- kidney transplants.

The problem here isn't so much that Joe's kidneys are not working. Joe has a recurring case IgA nephropathy, also known as Berger's disease, which damages the kidneys. Now he's hoping for one more transplant will beat the disease for good.

Joe was diagnosed with the disease at age 12, but his symptoms didn't show up until he was 20.

"You’re retaining water in your body, you start feeling sluggish, because the kidney's filters were blocked," Joe said.

That same year, Joe received his first new kidney, from his father.

Four years later, Joe's disease was back. Around that same time, Joe met his wife, Julie, and her mother, Elaine.

"Julie was home one day and said, 'I think Joe needs another kidney transplant. I really have been blessed with good health, why can't I do this?'" Elaine said.

Shortly after, Julie and Joe were married, and Joe got his second kidney at 26. Yes, the donor was his mother-in-law.

"It is probably one of the most rewarding things you can do with your life," Elaine said.

That kidney lasted only four years as Joe's disease came back again.

"Years after, [his doctor] looked at me and said, 'Don’t ever think it was not worth it, because his body rejuvenated so much in that time," Elaine said.

Carol Dykhouse was Joe's third and most recent donor. His body rejected that kidney after a year.

Now, Joe spends his nights on dialysis and has for three and a half years.

"You can hear when he walks around: he’s like 'Ouch ouch,' because it hurts to walk," Julie said, who added there are plenty of people willing to donate a kidney, but they aren't a match.

Joe has O-negative blood. His doctors believe the best chance of Joe finding a kidney match is through a live kidney donor pool.

If you want to help click here, fill out the form and list Joel Pettinga as the recipient.

You can email any questions you have about transplants.