Man donates kidney to brother battling rare disease

"There's so much to life and it’s so short and so fragile. I could have potentially lost him."

Unable to hold back her tears, Andrea Vertrees of Algonac  looks over at her husband - 40-year-old Brandon Vertrees inside Henry Ford Hospital Friday. It’s just a day before he hopes to head home.

"Life matters before anything else. I get to have him now, so I'm ecstatic."

Brandon says in 2014, he was diagnosed with a rare disease called Fabry disease. It causes an enzyme deficiency in his body. Brandon says the kidneys are usually the first organs affected.

"It was pretty bad when I found out my kidneys were at 35%. They thought I would probably have 5 years before I had to do this, but it declined quite quickly."

Knowing this disease can be fatal, without hesitation, Brandon's older brother - 46-year-old Phil Vertrees - got tested. He learned his kidney was a perfect match. He even lost 100 pounds in less than a year to make sure his kidney was in tip top shape.

"There wasn't really a discussion about it,” said Brandon. “He just did it."

“You're in the position to help, so you help," said Phil.

Since Tuesday, Henry Ford Hospital officials say 12 transplants have been performed - including hearts, lungs, livers and bone marrow. Some transplants like Brandon's, are performed robotically and are less invasive.

"They’re making a 4-inch incision here, then one above and below the belly button,” said Brandon. “They slide the kidney in."

Able to head home just four days after surgery, Brandon is expected to fully recover in six months. He can already walk around, and can't wait to get home to hug his little girls - thanks to his big brother.

"I'm just glad that I was able to make a difference - a real difference," said Phil.

“It's incredible,” said Brandon. “ It’s incredible you know. I mean, what can you say?"

“He gets to be a husband and a father,” said Andrea. “I can't thank him enough.”

Those who wish to sign up for being an organ donor to give the gift of life, may CLICK HERE.

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