Former Texas Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes made history this year by receiving a kidney transplant on his 85th birthday, becoming the fourth-oldest recipient in the state’s history. Barnes, who had spent over four months on dialysis, was initially told he was too old for a transplant. However, a second opinion from UTHealth Houston and Memorial Hermann revealed that Barnes was a good candidate for the surgery. Susan Martin, Barnes’ office administrator for over 20 years, ended up donating one of her kidneys to him. Barnes, who feels 10 years younger after the surgery, hopes to serve as an example that older individuals can still be recipients of life-saving transplants.
Dr. Hassan Ibrahim, the director of the nephrology transplant program at UTHealth Houston and Memorial Hermann, emphasized that age should not be a deterrent for transplants if the patient does not have any active cardiac conditions, history of cancers, or lung issues. While the organ transplant system generally prioritizes younger recipients, more live donations to the elderly, like Martin’s donation to Barnes, could help shift the paradigm and provide more opportunities for older individuals to receive kidney transplants. Barnes, who continues to work as a government affairs consultant and plans to play golf next year, wants to encourage older people that they still have a chance at a good life through organ transplantation.