Some people have a lot of heart, others have a lot of brains; Carl Jones has a lot of kidneys. The 32-year-old Welshman from the small town of Carmarthen has four of the organ, in fact, and three pancreases to boot. The situation came about as the result of Jones’ type 1 diabetes, a disease in which the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, resulting in high blood sugar levels. In 2004, he received not only a pancreas transplant, but he also had his kidneys replaced because the diabetes had caused them to fail.
The surgery went as planned, but within four years, his new organs had failed, and in 2008, doctors repeated the procedure. Rather than removing the old kidneys and pancreas, however, they left them inside Jones’ body. The reasoning was that the trauma of removing organs at the same time as adding new ones might be too much for the body to take. In order to minimize the chance of the transplanted organs failing again, surgeons just let the existing ones remain. “I may have four kidneys and three pancreases,” Jones stated in an interview, “but the organ donors have all the heart.”
Jones actually isn’t the first person — or even the first Briton — to receive a “double decker” transplant. In 2004, 44-year-old Englishman Ken Spensley also ended up with four kidneys after a double kidney procedure. Two kidneys were transplanted instead of the usual one in order to increase the odds of at least one working.
Interestingly, incidences of four kidneys can happen naturally, caused by a “glitch” during the early stages of embryo development that results in the still-growing kidneys splitting in two. Typically, the extra kidneys never grow to full size, but on rare occasion, they do, as in the case of 18-year-old Laura Moon of Leeds, England, who discovered her condition in 2008 by accident while undergoing a routine ultrasound.
Or take Derry, Ireland’s Patsy Doherty, who needed every single one of his kidneys way back in 1971 when a freak unrelated accident at age 19 led doctors to discover that not only did he have four kidneys, but that three of them had failed and the fourth was on its way to failing. The three non-working kidneys were removed, as was half of his remaining kidney, which soldiered on for three decades before finally giving out when Doherty was 50 years old. He was forced to go on dialysis for two years until he received a transplant.
(Sources: The Daily Mirror, Metro, The Guardian, The Derry Journal)