CHESTERFIELD, Mich. (FOX 2) - Michael Gerald just received his fourth kidney transplant.
Due to a genetic disease that runs in his family, glomerulonephritis, the kidneys can become infected where the blood enters the organ. He's seen everyone in his family with the disease succumb to it.
"My mom's had it; her brother had it; two nephews had it and they all passed away. So, I'm one of the very few left in our family ... with [this]," said Gerald. Over the years, he, too, has had some close calls.
The first two transplants came in the '80s, back when the disease was less understood. Gerald said he was a guinea pig for the previous transplants.
Then in 1991, Gerald received his third kidney transplant. He lived with it for nearly 30 years, until that kidney failed.
Now 65 years old, it's getting harder to receive transplants. The operation is getting riskier and hospitals that have the capability are less interested in helping.
He and his wife tried 12 hospitals. Gerald's time was running out, when MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute agreed to do the operation.
The family was estatic but still wary; Gerald says he was at University of Michigan Hospital, ready to undergo the surgery, when, at the last minute they said they couldn't.
Georgetown was able to perform the surgery, though, and it was a success. Gerald's life is now forever changed.
"It's freedom in your health, the way you feel is so much better.," he said. "Before I was grayish-brown, and even everybody now is saying, 'Wow, you got color back,' you know? Because the blood's really flowing."