Accidental Luck

In 2001, an accident turned into a stroke of luck for Billy Mark Munkres.

“When I went to the doctor, he did an x-ray of my ribs and told me I didn’t have any broken bones,” said Mr. Munkres, then 35. “But he saw something on the kidney – I had cancer.”

Billy Mark Munkres

Mr. Munkres, who lives in Omaha, Texas, was referred to UT Southwestern Medical Center, where his misfortune led to a life-saving surgery to remove his kidney. If the accident had not occurred, there’s no telling how long he would have gone on without knowing he had cancer. The odds of discovering that he had Hippel-Lindau Disease, a genetic disorder that causes the abnormal growth of tumors, were even more remote.

Although he recovered quickly, Mr. Munkres was warned that the disorder likely would lead to more tumors. After a decade of monitoring, that prediction became reality. Only this time, Mr. Munkres would need a transplant after the removal of his remaining kidney. In October 2012, he became one of a growing number of patients at UT Southwestern to undergo a kidney transplant from a living donor.

“It was such a blessing,” Mr. Munkres said. “Most people wait five or six years for a kidney, but I was really fortunate to have such a good friend.” 

In some ways, Mr. Munkres luck goes beyond friendship. At UT Southwestern, he found a dynamic, nationally recognized kidney transplant program. Since 2007, there have been 201 kidney transplants performed at UT Southwestern. Physicians from UT Southwestern performed the first kidney transplant in Texas in 1964.

“We set the bar very high,” said Dr. Jason Schwartz, Associate Professor of Surgery. “Our goal is to be the premiere program in the region.”