Man gives father gift of life

Travis Husted, left, and his father, Andy Husted, seated in the Husted family room, talk about the big decision for Travis Husted to donate a kidney to his dad last month. (Freedom Newspapers: Karl Terry)

By Helena Rodriguez: Freedom Newspapers

Travis Husted has given his father more than just a kidney for Christmas. His 60-year-old dad, Andy Husted, a Methodist minister, said his son has given him a new lease on life.

“I feel much better now than I did before my surgery. I can go for walks now and I have no more leg cramps. Before my surgery, it was getting to the point to where I was going downhill,” said the senior Husted, who is hopeful he will be healthy enough by June to receive a new church assignment. The last church the Portales man pastored was in Albuquerque two years ago. He has served as a pastor for Elida Methodist Church in the past.

Diagnosed with a kidney disease eight years ago, he underwent four years of kidney dialysis. His 30-year-old son gave him one of his kidneys during a transplant operation Nov. 3 at Covenant Medical Center in Lubbock.

Doctors say Andy Husted has had a speedier recovery than usual, which he considers nothing short of a Christmas miracle. He was allowed to return home to Portales on Dec. 15, one day before another son, Rusty, graduated from Eastern New Mexico University.

Although Travis Husted has been referred to as a hero and good person, he said he never had any second thoughts about giving his father an organ.

“I said, ‘It’s my dad!’ Hopefully, he will live longer and this will improve his way of life.”

When he learned he needed a new kidney, the senior Husted said all three sons, Rusty, Heath and Travis, and daughter, Heather, said, “Take mine.”

Son Rusty was determined to be the best match. But after discussion, the family felt Travis Husted would be the best donor since he was between jobs and such major surgery would interrupt Rusty’s classes at Eastern.

“I was honored to be able to do this,” Travis Husted said. “When I found out Rusty was a closer match, I was a little disappointed, but then we all decided for me to do it.”

Before he could become a donor, even for his father, he said he was required to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

“One thing the psychiatrist said to me was that ‘this is the ultimate gift. You’re placing your life on the line, so we want you to be as prepared as possible,’” he explained.

He didn’t think twice about giving his father the “ultimate gift.”

“If someone needs a transplant to begin with, then they are not living much of a life,” he said.

Andy Husted was placed on kidney recipient waiting lists at the University of New Mexico hospital in Albuquerque and at Lubbock hospitals. He was confident a donor would be found because many of his family and friends were stepping forward. But even after his son was scheduled to become a donor, he admits he had some concerns.

“The hardest mental thing I had to go through was that by taking one of my son’s kidneys, I worried about what would happen if my body rejected the kidney,” he said. “Also, his incision from the surgery is bigger than mine. It is much tougher on the donor than the receiver.”

In fact, he said doctors in Lubbock told them that removing an organ from a donor is the only surgical process they perform in which the quality of life of a patient is not improved.

“Usually surgery is to make someone better, but this surgery just hurts,” Travis Husted said.

Nevertheless, the pain he still gets from his incisions is easier for him to endure than seeing his father suffer, he said. And his dad also takes comfort in the fact that by being a donor — should his son ever need an organ himself — he would be placed at the top of any waiting lists.

Christmas was a particularly joyous occasion for the Husteds this year. All four children are home for the holidays to be with their dad and mom, Eileen, a survivor of colon cancer. While they celebrate together each year, this year has special meaning not only because of their father’s recovery progress, but also because their daughter and sister, Heather, who has been in China teaching English at a university since summer, is home, too.

Andy Husted commended the medical staff in Lubbock and at Plains Regional Medical Center in Clovis for the great care he said they have provided.

As for his son, he said, “This has made me put more faith in God, to rely on God and his blessings, to trust that he will take care of the whole situation.”

His son is making a good recovery as well. He will be looking for a job soon and also hopes to save money to go to graduate school and eventually become a pastor like his father. He would also like to get married someday.

As for Andy Husted, he is taking it one day at a time. Even after going through all of his life’s savings, he said he is grateful for his health and pleased with the results so far. In fact, doctors said that the kidney he received is functioning better than his son’s remaining one.

“God has had a hand in this,” he said. “I would say this is a miracle because of all of the people at our church praying for us. We’re on prayer chains around the world. Miracles do not come about by accident. It takes a lot of people to make a miracle work, and I think that pleases God.”