Rachael Rayburn had watched her dad struggle with kidney disease to the point where he was so sick he had to carry a bucket in the car with him. Payne, the owner of the Shrimp Boat restaurant, could serve food to others but was having a hard time eating.
Only 26 years old, Rayburn wanted to give her father a kidney.
“I told her I would take the kidney after she had a baby,” Payne said.
“She told him, ‘Take the kidney, then she would have the grandbaby,’” said Cylina Payne, Kenneth’s wife and Rayburn’s mother.
The two are stubborn and just alike, Cylina Payne said.
But Rayburn won the battle of wills and last March, gave her dad her left kidney.
A quick decline
Kenneth Payne was diagnosed with diabetes about 17 years ago and had little trouble with the disease until about four years ago.
He went to the doctor and discovered his creatinine levels were low, which is a sign the kidneys were not functioning properly.
“His levels were at 11 to 12 percent,” Cylina Payne said. “He had eight months to see if his kidneys would pick back up.” They didn’t.
In a matter of months, Kenneth Payne was having dialysis at home. His doctors told him part of the cause was a drug he took when he had a knee replacement.
Kenneth started having other health problems.
He went blind temporarily and had to have surgery on his eyes. He can see fine now.
In November 2011 he had a heart attack. He was put on the kidney transplant list. Doctors told him he had a few years to live, at the most.
Cylina said the doctors told him, “You want a kidney, you want to get a kidney because if you don’t get a kidney, you are not going to last long.”
A daughter’s determination
Rayburn knew it would be hard to convince her father to take her kidney.
When her parents went on vacation in January 2012, she and her younger brother, Daniel, were tested. He was not a match but she was.
Once she learned she was a match, she had to convince Kenneth Payne to take her kidney.
She told him, “I am giving you this kidney on this date and if you don’t take it, someone else will.”
“That’s because he was so stubborn and wasn’t taking it,” Cylina Payne said.
It was at the point that Kenneth Payne had no control over his bowels and he was going downhill farther.
He agreed to take his daughter’s kidney and just about two months after she tested as a match they were at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta.
Rayburn said she wasn’t scared about donating her kidney.
For her mother, it was the hardest few weeks of her life, she said.
“The day of the surgery, I was okay seeing him but every time I saw her, I started crying,” Cylina Payne said. “I cried and it made her cry.”
Rayburn’s boyfriend, now her husband, was also nervous but was supportive of her decision.
“He knows how I am,” Rayburn said. “I asked him, ‘what would he do if it was his daddy?’ I mean, it’s a no-brainer. He said,” I am not going to fight you if that’s what you need to do.”
The surgery was done at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta and the family was told what to expect.
“They tell you the first three days are going to suck,” Rayburn said. And they did for her.
At times when she moved, she said she could feel her insides moving. As painful as the surgery was, she only has a small scar and puncture holes as a reminder.
Kenneth Payne’s outlook for the first three days was much better. He was told that he would feel better right after the surgery and he did.
“I went to check on Rachael,” he said.
“His color was 100 times better,” Cylina Payne said. “I told everyone when the called and asked about them, ‘Everybody’s peeing buckets.’”
Because of his heart problems, Kenneth Payne was told he could be in CCU after the surgery. He never was and he went home after five days. Rayburn went home two days after her surgery.
Last week Kenneth Payne and Rayburn had their one-year checkup. Both received great reports.
Kenneth Payne was taking about 47 pills twice a day when he first went home. He is now taking about 15 pills a day, many of them he will take forever, he said.
On the Payne’s 30th wedding anniversary in October, the entire family went to Disneyworld.
Because the dialysis had damaged his bones, Kenneth Payne had part of his left leg amputated in February. He gets fitted for a prosthetic this week.
In July, Rayburn will give her father another gift — the grandchild he wanted.
She is doing great. Statistically, there is very little difference in how mothers carry and deliver and child whether they have one kidney or two, she said.
Kenneth Payne has a name picked out for his first grandchild, whether it is a boy or girl.
“What’s cuter than Payne?” he said.