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Utah Senator Gives Daughter A Kidney

September 10, 1986

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Sen. Jake Garn donated his left kidney Wednesday to daughter Susan Rhae Garn Horne in what doctors called ″an extremely successful″ operation that left the senator ″proud and happy.″

″The best of our expectations have been met and everyone is fine,″ said Dr. Baird Helfrich, who transplanted one of Garn’s kidneys into the senator’s 27-year-old daughter in a nearly six-hour operation.

Another surgeon, Dr. Ian Spence, removed Garn’s left kidney after a time- consuming incision which extended from the senator’s back to his left rib in the front. In an adjacent operating room, Helfrich implanted the kidney into Mrs. Horne, a diabetic who suffers from kidney failure.

″The senator is awake, has a bit of a grin on his face ... He seems very self-satisfied, and happy and peaceful,″ Helfrich said. The doctor added that he had spoken to Garn at length in advance of the surgery about Garn’s concern for his daughter and the senator’s gratitude that he was able to donate the kidney.

″He was proud and happy,″ Helfrich said of Garn, a physically fit 53- year-old who flew on the Discovery spaceship with a crew of NASA astronauts in April 1985.

Tim Sites, spokesman for Georgetown University Hospital, said later Wednesday that both Garn and his daughter were in fair condition. He said the next official condition update would come at 10 a.m. EDT Thursday, unless the pair’s health status changed.

Two senators interrupted a debate on a major spending bill Wednesday to pay tribute to Garn.

Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole, R-Kan., said, ″Needless to say, all our thoughts and prayers are with the Garn family. This is a most generous and courageous act.″ Dole said that two of Garn’s sons could have donated a kidney to their sister, but that the senator felt it was his duty as a father to do do. ″This is typical of Senator Garn,″ Dole said.

Sen. William Proxmire, D-Wis., called Garn ″a remarkable man, a man of courage.″

While the senator awaited the start of the surgery, Helfrich said, Garn conversed with his doctors about science and the senator’s interest in the space program.

″He indicated he had never been familiar with a hospital. He had been born in his own home for $25,″ Helfrich recounted of his conversation with Garn.

″Everything went well,″ Mary Thiriot, an aide to Garn, said following the side-by-side operations that took about six hours.

″I am very happy and proud to be the donor,″ the Utah Republican had said as he entered Georgetown University Hospital. ″Her mother carried her for nine months and I am honored to give her part of me.″

Garn interrupted his re-election campaign Tuesday to check into the hospital.

Garn’s operation, called a nephrectomy, was needed because his daughter, Susan Rhae Garn Horne, has suffered since childhood with diabetes.

Garn’s doctors said the senator likely would be kept in the hospital for at least a week, could drive a car and resume his campaign for re-election in three to four weeks, and even go jogging within a month.

Garn, a retired Navy pilot and the only senator to have ridden on a space shuttle, is chairman of the Banking Committee and of the Appropriations subcommittee that has oversight of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Ms. Thiriot said Mrs. Horne was conscious when she checked into the hospital but added that ″her condition has deteriorated.″

She said Mrs. Horne was not a candidate for dialysis, a method of treating kidney failure, and had no other options but a transplant.

In juvenile diabetes, the type Mrs. Horne contracted, the pancreas quits producing insulin and sugar builds up in the body’s bloodstream. A victim needs one or more insulin shots a day to compensate. However, blood sugar levels still rise occasionally, and the kidneys attempt to filter excess sugar from the bloodstream. Constant exposure eventually threatens destruction of the kidneys.

Mrs. Horne, one of seven Garn children, had deteriorated to a point where she would have had to begin kidney dialysis treatments within a week.

Mrs. Horne was 10 when her family learned she had diabetes.

″I decided several months ago that if it became necessary for someone in my family to donate a kidney to her, I would prefer to be the donor,″ Garn said in a statement. ″If, by some chance, Sue rejects my kidney somewhere down the road, she will have two brothers in reserve as donors.″

Garn, expected to win re-election in November to a third term, was tested in Salt Lake City and Washington last month to determine his suitability as a donor. Both his sons were also tested and found to be compatible.

Garn has been reluctant to discuss the surgery or his daughter’s condition. ″I am an elected public official,″ he told The Associated Press last week. ″She’s not elected to anything and I’ve been trying to protect her privacy.″