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With new kidney failing, Frank Clark back on waiting list

Frank J. Clark waited more than five years for a kidney, but three months after the transplant surgery, his new kidney is not working.

So he has returned to dialysis and will wait for another kidney.

“When they transplanted me, they knew the kidney was damaged because the 48-year-old it came from had a lifetime history of high blood pressure,” said Clark, the former district attorney. “My doctors told me that, but in my case the kidney damage was worse than anticipated. I was left with a damaged kidney that wouldn’t respond to anything. That was my curse.”

Clark, 73, returned to Buffalo on Tuesday and began his three-day weekly dialysis regimen and the hope that another kidney would be located early next year. Doctors at Banner-University Medical Center in Tucson sent Clark home to Buffalo with marching orders, said good friend Salvatore R. Martoche, and retired Appellate Division justice.

“He has to build up his strength, and they’ll do it again,” Martoche said. “They’re willing to give him another opportunity to get it right. Frank, being the old Marine he is, will build up enough strength.”

Clark, who left his job as Erie County district attorney in 2008 after serving two four-year terms, contracted lupus in 2002. That opened the door to renal failure and the 12 hours of dialysis he endures each week since 2010. One factor that complicated Clark’s kidney search is his Type B blood, which only 2 percent of the population shares.

Compounding his health was a large blister-like wound on the bottom of his foot that required a series of skin grafts. Clark has not been able to walk for six months, and the immobility is trying. But it hasn’t affected his sense of humor.  

“I’ve been sitting in a wheelchair for six months,” he said during a dialysis treatment Thursday morning in Tonawanda. “I was told that in order to save the foot, I couldn’t walk on it. If I had to look at the next month from a wheelchair, I’d become a psychopath. Other than that I feel great.”

Clark attributed his energy, in part, to the new kidney – even though it is not functioning properly.

“The kidney has had some salubrious effects,” he said. “My blood pressure, always dangerously low, is now almost normal. I attribute that to the kidney. I’m also stronger after dialysis treatments so there has been some beneficial effects.”

He expected to start physical therapy in mid-July, another effort to increase his strength and stamina so his name can be returned to the kidney transplant waiting lists at the medical center in Tucson and at Erie County Medical Center.

There are over 93,000 people on the kidney transplant waiting list, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.

“When Kathy and I were told the kidney was not working, it was a huge disappointment because we invested so much,” Clark said. “Surgery at may age is not easy. Arizona knows that it is my intention to go back on the list and wait for a second transplant. They want at least nine months after the transplant to put me on the list so I’m looking at the first of the year.”

Meanwhile, the Clarks are looking forward to spending a summer in Western New York where they will split time between homes on Chautauqua Lake and in Buffalo.

Sunday they have tickets to see the Los Angeles Dodgers play the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh.

“I think we’re going to go,” said Clark, a lifetime Dodgers fan. “You can’t stop living your lives.”