Jim Petta wants to make sure people know that March is National Kidney Month. He knew 20 years ago that he was going to eventually need a new kidney. Petta got one from his sister, Elizabeth, in December. Petta's long time Yucaipa friend Lance Hallberg showed signs 47 years ago that he might eventually need a new kidney. Hallberg now awaits one.
Since there are about 120,000 Americans on a waiting list for a kidney, Petta realizes he was fortunate that his sister’s DNA was compatible. Meanwhile, Hallberg’s wife, Linda has been going through the tedious task of taking tests in hopes of becoming her husband's donor. Some of Hallberg’s friends have offered but have tested negative as a donor. Petta explained that 13 mandatory pre-transplant tests took him four months to complete.
“Jim (Petta) has been walking me through the long process,” said Hallberg. “He even put up a sign in front of his barbershop that I need a kidney.”
Petta and Hallberg both described different symptoms regarding their kidney failure. Petta was diagnosed during a routine physical when his doctor found high pressure, eventually progressing to the point of his immune system attacking his kidneys and limiting its function to only 20 percent.
“I feel great now. I no longer want to just sleep. Everything is back to normal,” said Petta, whose sons, Eric, Scott, David and Vince all offered their father a kidney.
Hallberg, 60, has been a diabetic since he was 13. The process has been slow whereby his kidneys have dropped to the point of now working at 9 percent of capacity. He realizes his kidneys could shut down completely at a moment’s notice, however he miraculously continues to live life as usual. “I think going to the gym and not giving in to the situation makes a difference,” says Hallberg. “I should be begging for a kidney because my blood work could be bad tomorrow. God has blessed me.”
He admits that if he doesn't find his own donor, he could be on the waiting list from five to seven years. He is preparing to undergo kidney dialysis at home.
Hallberg kept it a secret that he injected insulin into his leg while he was a star athlete at Yucaipa High School. He told only close friends later when he quarterbacked the San Bernardino Valley College football team. Nor did he admit it to the Minnesota Twins who made him a No. 1 pick in the 1977 Major League Baseball draft. Hallberg, a charter member of the YHS Athletic Hall of Fame, noted that kidney malfunction is directly related to diabetes.
Petta, a 1983 YHS alum, pointed out that if his sister's kidney was not compatible, that she could still donate one to someone else on his behalf. “That would still put me on top of the list and likewise if my sister ever needs a kidney, she is automatically put on top of the list.”
The Redlands firm OneLegacy coordinated the donor list. His transplant was performed at Scripps Green Hospital, San Diego and he was back home in two days. He did not use his prescription for pain medicine but he will be on two immune suppressant medications for life.
Petta credited his wife, Michelle, for being his caregiver. He will be back to work at Mike and Jim’s Barber Shop in mid-March. Petta says he will stay involved to promote the importance of donating body parts. He provided related educational material from the Rotary Club of Yucaipa and OneLegacy.
“I highly recommend having that pink donor dot put on your driver's license.”
Petta listed further information, which can be found at: www.donatelifecalifornia.org.