Death of Blast star meant life for Maryland man

July 23, 1991|By Jonathan Bor

Linwood E. Mozingo was a 40-year-old builder from Southern Maryland who was slowly dying from the twin scourges of diabetes and kidney failure. Mike Reynolds was a robust 27-year-old soccer star with the Baltimore Blast who suddenly died after suffering a massive stroke on a volleyball court.

With seemingly nothing in common, these two men who never met were joined in an unforeseen way July 2 when Mr. Reynolds, rendered brain-dead by his stroke, donated his pancreas and a kidney so that Mr. Mozingo could live.

And now, after 22 years of diabetes and the recent onset of kidney failure, Mr. Mozingo talks with newfound vigor of his second chance at life and the end -- for now, and perhaps forever -- of his four-times-daily insulin injections.

Before leaving University Medical Center for his home in Leonardtown yesterday, the soft-spoken Mr. Mozingo expressed his thanks to the organ donor, even though he couldn't discuss the identity because of an agreement to keep such details confidential.

"I'm really grateful to that person to think enough to be a donor," he told reporters at a news briefing. "It's the greatest thing to be a donor."

From her home in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga, Mr. Reynolds' mother said family members had no trouble answering "yes" when officials at St. Agnes Hospital in Baltimore, where the soccer star died, asked if he ever expressed feelings about becoming a donor.

"He had discussed it," Lynn Reynolds said. "He said, 'If it can be of use to someone else, why not?' That's just the kind of person he was."

She, too, declined to discuss the person at the other end of the organ match, explaining that the agreement was inviolable.

Although kidney-pancreas transplants are becoming more common -- about 500 are done each year across the nation -- it was the first time since 1986 that the operation has been performed in Maryland.

Johns Hopkins Hospital tried "two or three" in 1985 but gave them up after the pancreas glands failed to perform their natural function of supplying the body with insulin, according to a spokeswoman. She was unsure if the patients lived or died.

Surgeons at University Medical Center performed one transplant 1986; while the patient lived, he had to resume insulin shots FTC because the pancreas did not secrete the lifesaving hormone.

But Dr. Stephen T. Bartlett, who operated on Mr. Mozingo, said Mr. Mozingo's chances for a full recovery appear excellent. Both organs appear to be functioning well, he said.

Dr. Bartlett pointed to key advances that have greatly improved the success rates of kidney-pancreas transplants. New drugs are doing a better job in fighting the body's natural tendency to reject transplanted organs, he said.

Another hurdle -- how to drain fluids from the pancreas -- has been solved by connecting a pancreatic duct to the bladder, a creative solution as the organ normally drains into the bowel, he noted.

Dr. Bartlett said that he performed seven kidney-pancreas transplants at the University of California at Davis before starting his new job in April as chief of the University of Maryland's transplant service. Sunday, he performed his second kidney-pancreas transplant in Baltimore, and he said that the male recipient was doing well.

For much of his life, Mr. Mozingo had suffered from insulin-dependent diabetes, meaning his pancreas failed to produce enough insulin to supply the body's energy needs. The disease got worse in the last two years, producing a domino effect of ailments throughout his body.

He lost sensation in his feet from the destruction of nerve endings, a problem that also cascaded into a severe bone infection in one foot. He suffered from blurred vision from the rupture of blood vessels in his retina. And his kidneys began to fail. "I was just a few weeks away from going on dialysis," Mr. Mozingo said. Dr. Bartlett said he recommended a transplant because diabetics do very poorly on kidney dialysis.

Mr. Mozingo was lucky. He opted for the transplant on July 1. His doctor placed him on the waiting list for the organs on July 2. That same day, while Mr. Reynolds lay brain-dead at St. Agnes Hospital, the match was made.

Angela Purcell-Patti, a transplant coordinator at the Transplant Resource Center of Maryland, would only describe the donor as "a 27-year-old African-American man from Maryland . . . a professional athlete." She said privacy rules prohibited her from divulging the donor's name, but said that Mr. Reynolds' family gave her permission to say that the soccer player did, indeed, donate his organs to someone.

"We'd like people to know that Michael Reynolds was an organ donor," Ms. Purcell-Patti said.

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