Local man undergoes double-organ transplant surgery

Local man undergoes double-organ transplant surgery

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - When people go to their local license branch to renew their license, they are asked if they want to become an organ donor.

One Tri-State man says that simple answer could save lives.

”Well my biggest thing is - I think people dismiss the questions when they go to the license branch about being an organ donor,” Joe McCullough said.

McCullough’s donor answered “yes” to that question, which gave him the ability to live a normal life.

”When I was 13 years old, I got diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes,” McCullough said. “That spring I got sick - tired all the time, always thirsty, blurred vision - the typical symptoms.”

Now in his 40s, McCullough has carried the disease for over three decades, which he says is about the time someone with his condition goes on dialysis and needs a transplant, but in his case - a double-organ transplant.

”Diabetes wrecks the inside of your body,” McCullough said. “It starts with your kidneys, it goes to your eyes, your nerves. It just kills everything.”

A kidney and pancreas transplant that he says finding a match for is as common as finding a penny at the bottom of an Olympic-sized swimming pool full with people. However, after more than 18 months, a match was found.

Now after a successful transplant, McCullough says he has the ability to do all the things a father can do to keep up with his almost 3-year-old daughter.

”She can just be a regular normal kid with a regular normal dad with just a big scar on his stomach,” McCullough said.

Dealing with this medical emergency during a pandemic, McCullough says masks can go along way.

”This thing here - literally saves my life,” McCullough said. “Not only me wearing it, but somebody else. The first year or so that I’m post-transplant, I have zero immune system. Any cough, cold or anything could be deadly for me. So the people that want to politicize it or whatever they want to do with that, they need to understand this is about being a decent human being.”

McCullough tells 14 News that next month, he will have the opportunity to reach out to his donor’s family and thank them.

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