The Michigan State baseball team's annual Comerica Park outing May 13 against Central Michigan was a whole different ballgame for MSU athletic trainer Brian Bratta.
Bratta worked minus one kidney, the one he gave to his college buddy, 35-year-old Kevin Morin of White Lake, during December’s off-season. Both men are back to work and in great condition, which they plan to celebrate together at the May 13 game at Comerica Park.
“It was a no-brainer,” now says Bratta, 36, an Illinois native who now lives in Lansing. “It was one of those things: ‘If it fits and works out, it’s yours.’ He’d do anything for me, and I’d do anything for him.”
Morin was the picture of health when he went in for an insurance-mandated physical in February 2010. Doctors at Henry Ford Hospital told him he was in stage 4 renal failure. He was suffering from IgA nephropathy, where a protein that typically helps the body fight infections concentrates in the kidneys, causing damage.
“They were pretty honest with me,” Morin explains. “They told me I would need a transplant, but they couldn’t tell me whether it would be six weeks or six years, depending on how the disease progressed in my body.”
By Spring of 2013, his kidney began to fail. Morin’s legs filled with fluids and his condition landed him on the kidney transplant list four months after the birth of his first child, Brynn.
“You have those days that you feel down in the dumps, you get depressed about it, but at some point you’ve got to get on with life,” Morin says. “The main thing that helped me was having our daughter because it made me be somewhat active.”
Morin and his wife, Andrea Morin, 32, a physician’s assistant in the emergency room at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, told their family and friends his health was failing and he was going to be placed on the kidney transplant list to wait for a match. As of May 2, more than 2,700 people in Michigan were waiting for a new kidney.
“Almost every person we called and talked to said, ‘Ok, how do I get tested,’” Morin explains. “It was very, very humbling for me. I wasn’t expecting that.”
Bratta, who met the fellow MSU student in a hallway in 2002 waiting to take an athletic trainer certification test, also offered his kidney.
“While we were standing there waiting for the test, people asked us if we are brothers,” Morin explains, noting their resemblance. “That’s the running joke. We weren’t blood brothers. Now, we don’t have that excuse anymore.”
Tests showed Bratta matched. He called Morin in mid-September, explaining they could do the transplant around MSU’s winter break, in between soccer and baseball seasons.
On Dec. 11, Henry Ford Transplant Institute transplant surgeon Lauren Malinzak, M.D. removed Brian’s healthy kidney. Then Jason Denny, M.D., surgical director of the Henry Ford Transplant Institute’s Living Donor Kidney Transplant Program, transplanted the healthy kidney into Kevin.
“We’re so pleased the advances in live-donor kidney transplantation have helped Brian, Kevin and hundreds of other Henry Ford patients make the connection,” Dr. Denny says. “Their situation is a great example of the gift of organ donation.”
Each year, more than 100 Henry Ford Hospital patients receive a new kidney from friends, family and strangers. The Henry Ford Transplant Institute is the most comprehensive multi-organ transplant program in Michigan, and employs effective clinical strategies to increase rates while maintaining superior patient outcomes.
“I feel great,” Bratta says. “I’m back to working out as normally as I used to. I don’t have any restrictions from my previous lifestyle.”
Morin said he hopes he’s able to ‘pay it forward’ and help someone else like his college buddy helped him.
“The biggest thing for me is just how humbled I am by the whole thing,” says Morin, whose swelling disappeared and is only affected by limitations dictated by his anti-rejection medications. “It’s very difficult to express enough gratitude and thankfulness for something he never gave a second thought to do.”
For more information on how to become a kidney donor, visit Henry Ford Transplant or call Henry Ford Hospital at (313) 916-3823.