A sacrifice for a fellow superintendent
Scott Dodson and Brian Conn share more than just being superintendents — their lives are forever intertwined after Conn donated a kidney to Dodson.
Jan 16, 2018
Scott Dodson (left) and Brian Conn. Photo courtesy of Brian Conn
Scott Dodson, CGCS, and Brian Conn, CGCS, work just 10 minutes apart, but they are now closer than ever.
Dodson returned home Monday after having received a new kidney on Jan. 9. The donor? It was Conn. Their admiration for one another after quite a journey is palpable. “Brian is an incredible human being,” Dodson says. Conn pretty much echoes that sentiment. “This all is reinforcement that he is a wonderful person,” Conn says.
Dodson, who oversees Park Country Club in Williamsville, N.Y., and Conn, who is at Transit Valley Country Club in East Amherst, have known each another for a while, but mainly through Western New York GCSA events. One day last August, Conn went to see Dodson at his club, which was nearing the completion of a major renovation.
“I think he thought I was going to borrow a piece of equipment. I told him I’d been through the testing process and had been preapproved. He got emotional. He couldn’t believe it,” says Conn, 48, a 22-year GCSAA member.
Dodson, 60, was born with kidney issues. He learned, much later in his life, that he was born with scarred kidneys. The Canada native was able to live with it, although he had been seeing a nephrologist (someone who specializes in the care and treatment of kidneys) for more than a decade. Dodson, who had been on an organ donation list since 2016, encountered a symptom of kidney trouble during the renovation. “I was absolutely exhausted,” he says.
Dodson’s doctor informed him that his kidney function was at a frightening 7 percent. When Conn entered the picture, Dodson was taken aback. “I didn’t know what to say. I said, ‘Why? Why me?’ His answer was so simple and nonchalant. He said, ‘It is the Christian thing to do,’” Dodson says.
Conn, who had learned about Dodson’s situation via an email sent by then-Western New York GCSA president Thad Thompson, told his wife Jennifer in May that he wanted to be a donor. She supported him, and Conn went through a battery of tests to determine whether he would be a match. He has Type O-negative blood, which means he’s among the most suitable for this type of experience. (Conn is considered a universal donor. Only 6.6 percent of the population has Type O-negative blood, and this can be transfused to almost any patient in need from whatever blood group.)
In mid-September, Dodson began dialysis three times a week. Conn, meanwhile, continued being tested. On Sept. 17, he gave 28 vials of blood, took a stress test and had an MRI on his chest and kidney regions. One hitch, Conn says, occurred when some calcification was found on his spleen. He had more blood work done before he was approved by an infectious disease specialist. Around Halloween, Conn received the news that he could donate a kidney to Dodson.
Now, the waiting began. Conn, a father of two, had worries. “It was excruciating. What if you go to the grocery store and get in an accident? What if something happens to one of our kids? Cold and flu season? If either of us is sick, it gets put off. It can be a real mental drain,” Conn says.
No wonder, then, that he was relieved when Jan. 9 arrived. “I was happy to get into that operating room. I felt the weight of the world off my shoulders,” he says. Nearly six hours later at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, N.Y., it was done. Conn’s left kidney was removed and placed inside of Dodson, whose original kidneys remained while the new one was situated below his right rib cage and tied into his bladder area.
As of today, both men are home and recovering. Dodson, who is married to Brenda and has three children and a grandchild, is off dialysis. He says Park CC has been wonderful, particularly his assistant superintendent, Jim Frey, a six-year GCSAA member. Dodson has his work laptop and is able to walk and can start driving locally. “There isn’t anything I won’t be able to get back to doing,” says Dodson, the son of a superintendent, who for the rest of his life will be on anti-rejection medications. Dodson says the hand sanitizer Purell “is my friend,” and he has been advised to wear a mask for a while when in places like the grocery store. He won’t be attending the Golf Industry Show next month in San Antonio, though it won’t be the end of a major streak. “I had a double knee replacement and ended my streak two years ago,” he says.
Conn says he lost 30 percent of his total kidney function, which he was told was OK as long as he takes care of himself. You get the sense that from now on, Dodson and Conn will take care of each other. They are proponents of the National Kidney Foundation, and recommend everyone be aware and proactive regarding any health issue. They also plan to see each other more often now that they share a common — and very important — bond.
“We’ve already kind of planned things. They do a family game night. Our wives have been texting, talking. I think it’s going to be a way different relationship,” Conn says.
Howard Richman is GCM’s associate editor.