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Scottdale man gives up hockey to donate kidney to brother

| Monday, March 7, 2011

About two years ago, Dave Porter was forced to give up soccer and distance running because of arthritis in his knees.

A sports junkie -- his wife has called it his "addiction" -- Porter, 57, of Scottdale decided to shift his focus to hockey because it has less impact on his aging joints.

"I've been playing hockey my whole life, but I went back to it because it was easier for me to skate without any pain," he said.

Porter's wife, Kathy, said athletics are as important to her husband as eating and sleeping.

"I have never been able to slow him down," his wife of 39 years said. "I think he'd play hockey until he was 80 if he could."

Now, Porter will again give up a sport he loves. This time, it will be to help a person he loves.

Porter will undergo surgery Tuesday morning in Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh to donate a kidney to his brother, Edwin. Doctors told Porter that contact sports can put him at risk of injuring his remaining kidney, so the surgery effectively will put an end to his hockey playing.

The decision, Porter said, is a "no-brainer."

"I just can't watch my brother suffer," Porter said. "If I can prevent that and prevent him from dying, I'd do whatever I have to."

Edwin Porter, 61, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1973 after serving nearly five years in the Air Force. He took a lithium-based medication for more than 30 years, until doctors told him the drug had seriously damaged his kidneys.

With only 15 percent kidney function, Edwin Porter was told he needs a transplant. His brother knew immediately what he would do.

"I've known for a long time that (Edwin) was going to have health problems, so it wasn't a surprise when his kidneys started failing," Dave Porter said. "I knew I was going to be the donor, and I've thought about it for a long time."

A Cumberland, Md., native, Porter said his athletic history makes him the perfect donor. In his younger days, he competed in countless 5K and 10K races. He played and coached soccer for years until arthritis forced him to hang up his cleats. He still runs on Sundays -- more short, fast runs than the 10-milers he used to log. But hockey, he said, "has allowed me to compete past my prime."

"I'm really the only (family member) I know that is still active," he said. "There are a lot of requirements to be an (organ) donor. You've got to be under 30 percent body fat, can't have a history of blood pressure problems, and the list goes on.

"I don't take any medication. I don't even like to take aspirin when I get a headache," Porter said. "I think I weighed 156 pounds in high school, and I might be 158 pounds now."

At first, Edwin Porter said he told his brother he would not accept the kidney. A combination of his wife's death last spring and a concern for his brother's future made him hesitant to let his brother undergo the procedure, he said.

"He really pushed it more than me, because I had just lost my wife," Edwin Porter said, holding back tears. "I didn't want anything to happen to him. He has three grandchildren and two sons."

The entire Porter family, including Edwin Porter's nephew, Chad, who had a heart transplant when he was 17, had to talk the veteran into allowing his brother to go forward.

"He was at a low point, but after he had some time to think about just being able to watch his grandson grow up and be there for his kids, he came around to everybody else's way of thinking," Dave Porter said.

Last Tuesday, just a week before his scheduled surgery, Dave Porter played his last hockey game in the 18 and older in-line hockey league at Hot Shots Indoor Sports Arena in East Huntingdon. Before the game, a jersey bearing his name was hung with the banners at one rink.

Last month, the sports arena held the "Mr. P Iron Man Tournament," named after Porter's moniker, "Mr. P," which raised more than $2,700 for the family.

Nick Pilotti, manager at Hot Shots, calls Porter his "hockey dad." He said Porter's absence at the arena will be felt.

"It's disappointing to see him go, because he has been an inspiration to a lot of people," Pilotti said after Porter's final game. "This is not a fun day for me or anybody here."

In his last game, a 6-5 thriller in which Porter's "Red Rage" won, Porter came close to scoring the winning goal with two hard shots in the final minutes of the third period, but h rcouldn't finish the deal.

Porter, though, didn't care as much as his gasping teammates and fans, who desperately wanted the win to go to Porter. The winning goal eventually went to a teammate, but Porter said he was happy just to a part of it.

"I've never had a bad day on a hockey rink, ever," Porter said. "For me, it's all about just being out there. It's the experience."

Now, thanks to his brother, Edwin Porter will get a chance for many more years of experience.

"When I grow up, I want to be just like Dave," Edwin Porter said.

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