Panama City Beach resident celebrates his new lease on life

By  | 

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG) - Thanksgiving is a time where many people reflect on their lives and appreciate everything they have. One local man has a lot to be grateful for this year. After a life saving transplant, Brian Rust now has a new lease on life.

Brian Rust, 42, has always lived life wide open. The native New Englander spent most of his life traveling across the country for his broadcasting career in TV and radio that eventually led him here to Panama City Beach. Now he's training to become a pilot, but despite all his successes, he has struggled with health issues for most of his life.

"I was 21 years old and I was driving back and forth between from where I lived in Providence, Rhode Island, and Western Massachusetts and I started getting this back pain," said Rust. "So I went to the doctor and they did a couple of tests and they did an iodine test and the nurse just kinda looked up and goes, 'Did you know you only have one kidney?' Which was the first I ever heard about that."

Rust then discovered he had FSGS in the one kidney he had. A disease where the kidney has trouble filtering and builds up scar tissue, which eventually leads to kidney failure. He spent the next 20 years in and out of the doctor's office.

"When my doctor about a year ago looked at me and said, 'You need to get a kidney transplant and we're gonna get you put on this list,' that's when I think my whole world just kind of crashed and stopped and was like oh my God this is real," said Rust.

The average wait time for a kidney can be anywhere from three and a half years to five years, but in less than nine months, they found Rust a perfect match.

"How'd you feel when you heard the news?"

"It scared the daylights out of me," said Rust. "I was at work and I got a phone call. I was actually in the middle of moving in an airplane and they said, 'Hey, we got a kidney for ya,' and that's when it really hit. I was like oh my God this is really gonna happen."

Rust had the surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville this past September. It was a success and he couldn't have been happier with the care he received.

"You don't know much about your donor, just that she was in her teens or early 20's and died in a traffic accident, but if you could say anything to her or her family what would you tell her?"

"That is probably the toughest thing to answer," said Rust. "Thank you is probably not a strong enough word. It's probably the most emotional part of the entire thing. Knowing that somebody had to die for your life to continue on and their loss, it's just so hard to come up with the words to really say other than maybe thank you."

Rust says he's pretty much recovered from his surgery, but he will have to be on anti-rejection medication for the rest of his life. Next on his bucket list is getting his pilot's license and he's only a few hours of flying away from that.