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Man Who Was Rushed To Transplant Surgery Doing Well

March 28, 1989

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ An aerospace company employee who received a transplanted kidney was recuperating well Monday, thankful that he was rushed by helicopter from a remote desert camp in time for the surgery.

Charles Ridgeway, 47, ″is doing great. He’s awake, alert and reading the newspaper,″ his son, 23-year-old Matt Ridgeway, said by phone from Western Medical Center in Santa Ana. ″He’s pretty happy about the new kidney. We’re all happy.″

The elder Ridgeway was upgraded from critical to serious condition, and showed no sign of rejecting his new kidney, hospital spokeswoman Rose Ayala said. Matt said his father expected to be discharged within two weeks.

He underwent transplant surgery Sunday after an urgent ground and air search to find him once the donor kidney became available on Saturday. He was some 200 miles from the hospital when he was found.

Ridgeway, his wife, Betty, and 25-year-old daughter, Robin, were camping in a remote Imperial County area near the U.S.-Mexico border, when they finally were located early Sunday by Matt Ridgeway and Los Angeles-based KNX-AM news radio helicopter pilot Bob Tur.

″He’s very thankful, especially to Bob Tur and his helicopter,″ Matt said.

Charles Ridgeway, an accounting manager at Rockwell International in Anaheim, wore a paging device so hospital officials could locate him, but he was well out of its range.

Because Ridgeway’s blood type is shared by only 15 percent of the population, ″doctors said it could be years before a kidney became available,″ the son said. ″It was just a fluke one with the right blood type became available so quickly.″

Matt drove 100 mph to the Imperial Valley, while search-and-rescue crews also looked and Tur flew through driving rain in his search. They initially were unable to find the elder Ridgeway among Easter weekend crowds of campers.

It was like looking for ″a needle in a sand dune,″ Tur said.

″It was a pretty close call, mainly because the helicopter was running out of fuel,″ the younger Ridgeway said. ″They (Tur and others with him) had 10 minutes left before they would have had to turn around and go back.″

Ridgeway required the transplant because he suffered polycystic kidney failure, in which cysts form in the kidney and prevent its proper functioning, Ayala said. The condition is genetic, Matt Ridgeway said.

He said the donated kidney came from a local teen-age girl. Ayala said she had no details on the donor.

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