Around the office, Howard Richter is known for his skills and expertise as the senior Service Now administrator for Cox Enterprises. But he’s also known for something else: being an unofficial ambassador for kidney health.
Seven years ago, Howard became a kidney transplant recipient after his then 23-year-old son gave him the gift of a functioning kidney. Howard had suffered renal failure after medications he was taking for rheumatoid arthritis irreparably damaged his kidneys, making them unable to filter his blood.
Both of Howard’s sons volunteered to be donors. But Andrew, the younger, was first to be identified as an acceptable match. Andrew underwent various health and psychological tests. Then father and son had the surgery in April 2012.
Howard said he will be forever grateful to his son. The sacrifice strengthened their already close bond, and did not cause any long-term health issues for Andrew. Andrew went on to get married in 2015, and last year he and his wife had a son (Parker, Howard's first grandson).
“People don’t realize from the donor perspective that once you heal, there are no other changes or lasting effects. You’re done,” Howard said. “You just follow up with your doctor periodically.”
It’s not quite as simple for Howard. For the rest of his life, he’ll have to be on medications to make sure his body doesn’t reject the organ. His immune system function is suppressed to help prevent it from attacking the foreign kidney. He has to see a doctor once a month to receive a battery of tests, and takes extra precautions to avoid germs (“I go through about a gallon of hand sanitizer every few weeks,” Howard explained).
However, he no longer needs to be on dialysis. And he returned to work after only six weeks of recovery. Howard said his supervisors and everyone at Cox treated him like family throughout the ordeal. "It’s the emphasis of the company to make sure we were taken care of. You can’t put a price on that.”
Over the years, fellow employees have reached out to Howard with questions after finding out that someone in their life has kidney issues — often wondering what can they do.
He recommends cutting out fountain beverages and drinking a lot of water to maintain good kidney function. And he also urges others to consider being tested for compatibility with someone in need of kidney donation. For more information on becoming a kidney donor, click here.