The Koontz family never takes a Father’s Day for granted after nearly losing their patriarch last year. Keith Koontz of Wichita, Kansas was having urination issues and just wasn’t feeling well when he finally went to the doctor. Come to find out, his kidneys were failing – and he was put on dialysis. “Dialysis is no joke,” he admits. “I would go in three times a week for four hours each. It was time consuming and could be painful. Things got a little better when they put me on home dialysis, but it was hard to lug around heavy boxes of fluid anytime we tried to go camping.”
An avid camper for many years, Koontz had no idea his hobby would play a role in saving his life. “When it became clear that I needed a transplant, my physicians said I was lucky that I was in such good shape. I attribute that to camping.”
But at the age of 81, he wondered if transplantation was even an option for him. “Some transplant centers will not transplant someone over the age of 80,” Koontz states. “That was one of the deciding factors for why we chose INTEGRIS Health.
I wasn’t done living yet, and they were willing to give me a second chance.”
E.N. Scott Samara, M.D., is the surgical director of the Nazih Zuhdi Kidney Transplant program at INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City. “It’s our transplant center’s philosophy to not look a patient’s chronologic age, age in years, but to look at how the patient looks physically and mentally. Mr. Koontz is an active, vibrant man with an overall good health status and we felt he was well deserving of transplant for continued quality of life.”
The Koontz clan is a tight knit group. Keith’s sister and all five of his children offered to give him one of their kidneys. They all went through the application process, but it was Kenny Koontz of Norman, Okla., the baby of the family, who was a perfect match. “Any one of us would have done it for him,” says Kenny. “I just happened to be the best candidate.”
The transplant took place on Jan. 11, 2021. It was a complete success – but the story doesn’t end there.
As fate would have it, the surgeons who performed the transplant on Keith and Kenny Koontz – were a father and son duo as well. E.N. Scott Samara, M.D., is the senior and Shea Samara, M.D., is the son. Both are transplant surgeons at the Nazih Zuhdi Transplant Institute. “What are the odds?” asks Keith Koontz. “When we tell our story to people, they don’t believe us at first. But then they think it’s amazing when they realize we’re being serious.”
Kenny Koontz gets choked up when he thinks about it. “The son took my kidney and handed it to his father, who in turn put it into my father. It’s more than a coincidence to me, it’s a connection. One we won’t forget for the rest of our lives.”
“As transplant surgeons, we always feel blessed to be able to help people. One father and son pair helping another father and son pair was truly special,” admits Shea Samara. “My dad and I have been blessed to have been able to work together for the past 15 years and we truly cherish every moment together.”
The Koontz family hopes to help others by sharing their story. They say life is too precious to be taken for granted. “Never take a Father’s Day for granted,” advises Kenny. “You never know when or if it will be the last one you get to spend together.”
Keith Koontz agrees. He is camping again and just celebrated his 64th wedding anniversary with his wife, Beverly. He says they have lived a blessed life thanks to the Man Upstairs. He calls these next years his ‘bonus’ years – and says he will live each of them to the fullest.