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Family sees organ donation as their calling after son undergoes heart and kidney transplants

Family inspired after man has donor heart and kidneys
Posted at 1:00 PM, Sep 02, 2019

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Kreg Van Hoesen has had to fight for his life for much of his life, born with congenital heart defects in 1986 when doctors didn't know until after he was born.

Two surgeries at two months of age would be followed by two more at two years old.

Then when Kreg was six, doctors tried to correct the defects in his heart. Unfortunately it didn't work. His mother, Pam Van Hoesen remembers every detail of the family's hard fought battle to keep Kreg alive. "His outlook was bleak," she says, "but he managed to get through it and within a week, he got a heart."

They know the donor heart came from a family in the Midwest who lost a child traumatically, but they've never heard back from them after writing letters, and they understand. Pam says, "for someone else to lose a child in order for your child to live is mind boggling."

To pay forward that most precious gift, the family became champions of organ donation.

It started eight years after Kreg got his heart. Pam Van Hoesen's friend needed a kidney. Pam tested and hers was the best match.

Then in 2003 Kreg went into kidney failure. The anti-rejection drugs from Kreg's heart transplant were very hard on his kidneys, and when he needed a kidney transplant, his dad Mark stepped in.

Kreg initially rejected Mark's kidney however, and he almost lost his battle to survive again. Eventually his body accepted it, and he had 16 years with that kidney. But Kreg's health took a turn for the worse early this year. All three of his sisters tested to find the best match. Kreg's sister Kendyl was the closest match.

Kendyl's mother-in-law also happened to be a kidney donor as well, and with both of her own parents living healthy lives with just one kidney, Kendyl didn't hesitate to agree to donate hers to her brother.

She explains that the entire family was nervous going into this surgery. They knew as the donor, their family had a long track record of success living with just one kidney, but they worried about how Kreg would do, undergoing his third transplant surgery. "He's a real fighter and real survivor... but most of his surgeries didn't go as planned."

It so happens that Kreg was due for success however, and this transplant, which was done at UCSD Medical Center, has been his easiest so far.

The family, including Kreg, believe their mission is to get out the word about organ donation. Kreg says he's shocked by how many people are apprehensive about it, whether a living donation, or a donation after someone dies. "I do hope this can change the perspective," he says.