Connections formed around community organizations can change lives. Mount Si School of Karate teacher Michael Morris knows this well, as he was the recent recipient of a kidney transplant from a parent of a student in his program.
In early 2015, five years after opening his school in North Bend, Morris became aware that his kidney function was rapidly declining and he was faced with the decision between dialysis and kidney transplant.
If he could not get a kidney donation he would need to have dialysis treatments for the rest of his life, so Morris registered with the United Network for Organ Sharing’s transplant waiting list and began looking for donors.
He searched for live donors, because those transplants had higher success rates than those from deceased donors. A kidney from a living donor will also typically last longer and the patient will have a reduced recovery time.
Two people offered to be donors, but neither was a blood type match for Morris.
The solution presented itself through one of his student instructors, Tyler Shaw. In December, Shaw’s mother, Roxanne Cannon, spoke with Morris over Facebook and decided to offer one of her kidneys to the teacher who had been such a positive influence on her son for many years.
“He has done such good job teaching these kids respect and working hard at school,” Cannon said. “This karate community is so close, it’s just a big family. It’s giving him better health so he can be there for his three children and granddaughter and still be an active member in the community.”
Cannon, who works as a medical assistant, said a that because Morris’ first candidate wasn’t eligible to donate a kidney, he fell to the bottom of the wait list — a two or three-year wait. At the time, his kidneys were functioning at 12 percent of the normal rate, and doctors said he would need dialysis treatment if they fell to seven percent.
“After a couple of weeks I decided,” she said. “I sent him message and said ‘How can I donate a kidney?’”
Both Morris and Cannon needed to undergo testing at Swedish Hospital in Seattle, to make sure they were compatible and healthy enough for the transplant. Once they were cleared, the operation was set for May 22.
The surgery was successful and Cannon was discharged from the hospital two days later. Morris was discharged the day after Cannon, but contracted pneumonia and a high fever, and was sent back to the hospital for more recovery time.
In looking back on the procedure, both Morris and Cannon stressed the importance of live organ donation. Live donors can help recipients skip the wait on the national waiting list, have better survival rates, and the donated kidneys will begin working immediately on transplant.
“I would encourage anyone who feels they might be called to do this to check into it, because it really makes a difference if it is a living donor and how long the new kidney lasts,” Morris said.
Once at home, Morris needed a caretaker to watch over him 24 hours a day for the first two weeks of his recovery. His friends, along with some of the black belts and student instructors, teamed up to help Morris by working in shifts.
“It is absolutely humbling,” Morris said. “On top of being my babysitters, my senior black belts are also teaching all the classes, we are coming up on testing… so it’s a really intense time in our school. They are working really hard to get the students ready to test.”
Morris also said his adult son, Michael Jr., was an invaluable help to him by driving him back and forth between appointments at Swedish and doing all of his shopping.
Morris is excited to get back to teaching, although he has a few more weeks of recovering before he will be able to get back to his active lifestyle and teaching his students.
“I want to get back to my school ASAP and that will possibly be in a couple of weeks,” he said. “I can’t believe how much I miss the students.”
Morris began seriously training in martial arts in 1996 at Karate West in Issaquah. He explained that he got into martial arts as his way of working out without going to the gym.
“I trained when I was a kid here and there but when I started training formally, I was a 45-year-old guy looking for exercise. It wasn’t going to the gym,” he said.
He started the Mount Si School of Karate in 2010. Operating out of the Si View Community Center, the karate school has developed into a friendly community.