SAN ANTONIO (Nov. 11, 2009) — For half a century, countless young patients and families have given thanks for the tender loving care of pediatrician John Mangos, M.D., of the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio. In his distinguished career, he has developed innovative programs to help infants, youths and families coping with HIV/AIDS and conducted significant research of cystic fibrosis to advance care of a lung disease that typically claims its young victims.
The upcoming holidays will be meaningful for this special man. Dr. Mangos and his family are thankful for a donor kidney given by his son-in-law, David Umbel—a gift of life that restored the former pediatrics department chairman to good health and enabled him to come back to work.
Dr. Mangos, 77, received the kidney earlier this year at the University Transplant Center, a partnership of the Health Science Center and University Hospital. He had been on renal dialysis for more than a year. His kidneys were damaged as the result of an episode of insufficient blood supply pumped by his heart. “My heart improved, but my kidneys did not,” he said.
Dr. Mangos began dialysis in early 2007 and met Wajeh Qunibi, M.D., professor of nephrology who sees patients of UT Medicine San Antonio, the School of Medicine’s multispecialty physician practice.
“I realized I could live and work around dialysis,” Dr. Mangos said, “but there was the nagging thought: Could I be free and not dependent? I asked Dr. Qunibi, who gave me information about a kidney transplant. Over the age of 75, it is pretty difficult to get a transplant. I thought I would stay with dialysis as long as I could.”
One day Dr. Mangos was at a meeting with transplant surgeon Glenn Halff, M.D., interim dean of the Health Science Center School of Medicine and director of the University Transplant Center. “I turned to Dr. Halff and asked, ‘Why don’t you transplant older patients?’ He said, ‘We do.’”
Dr. Mangos’ journey to becoming a transplant patient was under way. The University Transplant Center did due diligence—three months of tests—to make sure the respected pediatrician would be a good recipient. At the end the conclusion was positive. He could receive a kidney from either a living donor or a donor who had passed away.
“Dr. Mangos has been a colleague of ours for many years and has provided great leadership within the Health Science Center,” Dr. Halff said. “He asked me if he was too elderly to have a transplant. I told him that the prospect of a successful outcome, not age, is the determining factor.”
Dr. Mangos has four daughters who he described as “militant” caregivers. They held a meeting with him to discuss the transplant. “For one reason or another none of my daughters could give me a kidney,” Dr. Mangos said. “I got scared. Then David came up and said he wanted to try. I said, ‘Are you sure, David?’ He said yes and now we needed to make sure of the match.” (Matching tests can indicate whether a donor’s organs or tissues will be compatible with, or rejected by, a recipient.)
Umbel is married to Dr. Mangos’ daughter, Elena. Dr. Mangos called David “my Marine” and said: “He is an Irish-German young man from Maryland, a custom homebuilder after he left the military, who matched perfectly with a Greek American who came to this country 50 years ago. I did not expect to get one of his kidneys, but I guess it was meant to be. We’ve always been close.”
Had Umbel not matched, Dr. Mangos could have spent considerable time on the United Network of Organ Sharing kidney transplant waiting list. The average wait time is six years. Instead he is enjoying his 11 grandchildren.
“As a Greek Orthodox priest, I believe that miracles still happen every day,” Dr. Mangos said. “On this Thanksgiving period, I am thankful to God for my miracle of kidney transplantation.”
Erin Umbel, 11, one of David’s daughters, summed up the family’s feelings about what her father has done: “He like, it is so nice of him. I want to thank him for doing that!”
John A. Mangos, M.D., short bio: Born in Greece, 1932 … graduated with highest honors from the Medical School of the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki, Greece, 1956 … served as a physician in the Greek army, 1956-59 … came to U.S. for residency training upon army discharge … internship and residency in pediatrics in Madison, Wis., 1959-62 … fellowships at the University of Wisconsin Medical School, Madison, 1962-64, and Institute of Physiology at Free Berlin University, 1964-66 … faculty member, pediatrics, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1966-75 … faculty member and chief of pediatric pulmonology, University of Florida, Gainesville, 1975-82 … professor and chairman of Department of Pediatrics, UT Health Science Center San Antonio, 1982-97 … chief of pediatric pulmonology, UT Health Science Center, 1997-2001 … holder of Eloise Alexander Distinguished Chair of Pediatric Pulmonology, UT Health Science Center, 1997-present … vice chairman for academic affairs, pediatrics, 2006-present … major research interest: ion transport abnormalities in cystic fibrosis and care of children with pulmonary diseases … one of top achievements: established community pediatrics division at UT Health Science Center to, among its projects, help babies, children and families affected by HIV/AIDS … also organized the first division of pediatric pulmonology at the Health Science Center in 1997.
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is the leading research institution in South Texas and one of the major health sciences universities in the world. With an operating budget of $668 million, the Health Science Center is the chief catalyst for the $16.3 billion biosciences and health care sector in San Antonio’s economy. The Health Science Center has had an estimated $36 billion impact on the region since inception and has expanded to six campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. More than 25,600 graduates (physicians, dentists, nurses, scientists and other health professionals) serve in their fields, including many in Texas. Health Science Center faculty are international leaders in cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, aging, stroke prevention, kidney disease, orthopaedics, research imaging, transplant surgery, psychiatry and clinical neurosciences, pain management, genetics, nursing, dentistry and many other fields. For more information, visit www.uthscsa.edu.