Tuesday, February 14, 2012

James Fitch, Bradley Van Newkirk & Their Shared Kidney & Deaths

Here's a press photo available on eBay of kidney transplant patient James Fitch. He had been sustained by an artificial kidney at Eloise for the previous 8 months. Unfortunately, the operation came via the death of 7-year-old Bradley Van Newkirk of Plymouth, Michigan who was struck and killed by a truck near his home.

Bradley and two brothers, Jeffrey, 11, and Gregory, 9, were struck in an intersection while walking to a school play less than a week before Christmas 1965. While Gregory sustained only minor injuries, Jeffrey was pronounced dead on arrival at Wayne County General Hospital and Bradley died several hours later. When Bradley was given no chance of survival his father, a doctor himself, consented to donating his kidney to the dying man, saying, "If my son cannot be saved and his kidney can be used to save another human that's what should be done."

from The Ludington Daily News, December 22, 1965

For Fitch it was a bittersweet gift but one which he relished. He had developed uremic poisoning after a sailing accident in which he was struck by a boat sling and suffered kidney damage on the USS McKinley off the coast of Spain in 1958. Fitch was discharged from the hospital a month later and returned to his Delta, Ohio home. By late March he had returned to Eloise and died on March 24, 1966. According to his obituary it was for causes other than his kidney.

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