By Dorothy Bliskey
They are 37 years apart in age, share the same birthday (March 18), have the same blood type (O), can “read” people, are very social, and have an immense passion for the outdoors. But this father-daughter duo — Julie Hogan and Jim Hamilton – may someday be sharing even more. Julie just might be donating her kidney to her dad. It would be the ultimate gift from a daughter to her father in an attempt to save his life and renew his health.
“I’m in the process of being tested as a donor,” Julie said, explaining that all three of her siblings were also tested. “I’m the only one who qualified as a donor based on blood type. I have type O like Dad does. My brother and two sisters are all type B.”
The journey is just in the beginning stages for both Julie and her dad. His kidneys are still functioning at a level where he isn’t in dire need of a transplant yet, but chances are it’s just a matter of time. She has two more stages of testing to go.
“So far, he hasn’t had to go on dialysis,” Julie said, noting the transplant won’t take place until her dad’s kidneys are down to functioning at less than 15 percent.
Jim, who at 68 is retired and lives in Fox Lake with his wife Patty, spends quality time with daughter Julie at her business — Reconnect Spiritual Sanctuary – located at 112-1/2 South Spring Street in Beaver Dam. There she offers guidance for the mind, body and soul as she directs guided mediation and classes in energy rebalancing, stress release and reflection using Native American and Peruvian techniques, among others.
“My dad has experience in Reiki, a style of Japanese energy rebalancing/clearing. It results in stress relief and relaxation which, in turn, helps trigger the body’s natural healing ability. It promotes better sleep quality, relieves pain and supports the immune system. It also helps clear toxins from the body – which my dad’s body can’t do very well on its own right now.”
While his kidney function numbers aren’t good, they’ve improved recently after a huge scare while being hospitalized for a ruptured appendix. Infection set in, and his kidneys weren’t happy.
“I was holding my breath thinking that this could affect his kidneys to the point where he might require dialysis, and then it’s as if a miracle happened. He recovered well and is back home feeling pretty good.”
Jim says his kidney problems were caused by high blood pressure that went untreated. The result was damage to his kidneys. “I was diagnosed in March of 2013 with stage 4 renal failure due to stupidity,” he said.
Although he knew he had high blood pressure, he tried to lower it with diet and exercise instead of taking medication. It didn’t work.
“I thought I could control it myself, but I didn’t do a good job of follow-through. The issue that caused my kidneys to fail was not treating my high blood pressure like the life-threatening disease it is,” Jim said. “Medication could have prevented the damage. Now, my rule is simple: If I’m told to do something regarding my health, I do it to the letter.”
“I’ve managed to halt the deterioration and regain some kidney function through diet and exercise. I’ve also avoided dialysis for the time being.”
Jim completed the screening process and was accepted into the transplant program at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee. It’s there that his surgery to receive his daughter’s kidney will take place. Julie, if she passes the remaining tests, will be in the same hospital at the same time for removal of her kidney.
“I will need a kidney within the next three to five years — no matter how well behaved I am on my diet,” Jim said. “My kidneys will continue to deteriorate to the point where the only option is a transplant or dialysis.”
Meanwhile, Julie will work through the remaining two testing stages. “Those stages don’t begin until my dad’s kidney function is below 15 percent and he’s eligible for a transplant,” Julie said.
To make the transition easier, Jim and his wife are selling their house in Fox Lake to move to Racine. Their move will put them close to their oldest daughter, Heather who lives in Racine with her husband and five children. “I’ll be closer to Froedtert, too,” Jim said, noting it’s another factor in their decision to move.
Since Jim’s hobby is woodworking, he plans to make hand-turned bowls and wooden art that will be for sale at Julie’s Beaver Dam business. “I’ll be starting to make them as soon as I relocate to Racine.”
Common sense, the right blood type and divine guidance all comes into play, Julie said, as she explains why she is willing to give up one of her kidneys. “I have two kidneys. I figure I don’t need both,” she said. “And there was divine guidance in the fact he’s my dad. It was the right thing to do. I put myself in his position, and I just knew it was my path.”
Complicating factors such as timing came into play during her decision-making. “My husband and I will start a family in the future, and my dad was concerned about that. He urged me to think and pray about it. My dad’s spiritual faith is one characteristic that I respect, follow and am so thankful for. This is the greatest lesson he has ever taught me.”
“He walks every day of his life with his faith as a beacon. If there is ever an unknown in life, dad always replies ‘Just pray about it.’”
Comical dad reflects on his family
Jim Hamilton is a spiritual, intuitive and very funny person, according to his daughter Julie, the second youngest of his four children who range from 29-43 years old. “I remember hearing that he actually set off fireworks in the house during my older sister’s birthday party many years ago – before I was even born,” Julie said.
He’s the ultimate practical joker, and his latest stunts involve partnering with his grandkids to get laughs from unsuspecting strangers and clerks in the grocery store. “Around any aisle, a customer might hear what sounds like someone passing gas, Julie explains. It’s really my dad and one of his grandkids, pulling a practical joke with a machine that mimics the sound.”
“He’s a very devoted, fun-loving father and I dearly love him,” Julie said, noting she hopes she can help him whenever the time comes for his kidney replacement surgery.
Jim finds it ironic that it’s Julie who tested positive as a donor. “All of the kids said they would donate their kidney if they could, but I found it fascinating it ended up being her — especially since we share the same birthday. There’s a special bond there… I wasn’t too surprised. Everyone wanted to do it but Julie was the match. I thought it was really cool.”
His three other children also bring him smiles. Heather, the oldest at 43, is a school teacher, lives in Racine and has five children ages 7-19. “She’s got a good sense of humor but she’s also the law and order person,” Jim said. “She’s pretty serious. She’s the teacher. She’s organized. You see yourself in your children in different ways. I like to think of myself as the law and order sheriff. Heather gets that from me.”
James (Jim) is 41, has four children ages 9-18 and lives in Sun Prairie. As the only son, he has a personality similar to his dad – according to his dad. “He’s good with the kids, comes up with lots of family-focused activities and is great at interacting with people. We spend a lot of time hunting together and have a lot of fun with famous movie lines. I giggle to myself sometimes when he says something, and he sounds just like me.”
“Julie’s special gift is her ability to relate to people and make a very strong emotional connection with them,” Jim says. “I saw it even when she was a little girl. I’m proud of how she’s been able to move into a community and get to know so many different people. Watching her share her time and talent is what I really enjoy.”
Caroline, Jim’s youngest at 29, is also adept at meeting, greeting and interacting with people. “She’s in direct marketing, making cold calls, building relationships and getting them to commit. She acts like me. When she’s in a room she’s always laughing and telling stories.”
As for his wife Patty, she’s been known to dress the part and play the role of a clown. She even went to clown school years ago. “She’s commonly known as ‘the Goddess,’” Jim smiled. “And she’s a clown because she’s married to a Bozo.”
“Seriously, life is good – I’m very blessed.”
For more information contact her website at www.reconnectspiritually.com
Living donor information