Fire not first near-death experience for Phillipsburg man, who has had 3 kidney transplants

By Danielle Nelson

*This article is posted on The Express Times website.

fire1Firefighters douse the flames at a home in the first block of Sitgreaves Street in Phillipsburg on June 10, 2014. Photo Credit Tim Wynkoop | For

Luke Garris, who was born with kidney failure, had no time to think about his medication when flames forced him out of his Phillipsburg apartment.

When Garris realized he could not dowse the flames that quickly crawled up the cabinets in the kitchen of his second-floor apartment on Sitgreaves Street, he made sure he was out of the apartment, along with his nephew, his friend and his two dogs.

But his medications, including anti-rejection drugs for his kidney transplant, were left behind.

Escaping Tuesday night’s fire was not the first near-death experience Garris has faced.

Doctors said he wasn’t supposed to live past the age of 13 because of renal failure. Since then, Garris has undergone three kidney transplants.

Doctors took one of Garris’ kidneys at birth. At the age of 13, Garris said, he started getting sick, at which point he was placed on dialysis.

Garris waited for a kidney transplant for two years before he finally received his first kidney about 1999. But his body rejected it within a week, and Garris was again placed on dialysis for a year before he received his second transplant.

After eight years, Garris said he lost his second kidney in 2007 because he developed serve diabetes.

“I had to get shots to test my sugar four times a day and get insulin three times a day,” he said. “With all that on my plate I wasn’t really compliant with taking all of my medicine because I was weaving in and out with school and work.”

In 2009, Garris was able to receive his third kidney transplant.

“I can’t have anymore if I lose this one,” Garris said.

Although Garris did not find his medicine when he returned to his burned-out apartment Wednesday, he was able to get some of his medications, which included anti-rejection drugs, from a local pharmacy and the others were shipped Thursday to his parents’ home, where he is staying temporarily.

Although the fire was the latest in a series of difficulties Garris has faced, he looks forward to returning to his work.

Fire officials said Tuesday’s blaze was caused by unattended cooking.

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