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Following kidney transplant, Texas senator pushes for living donor education

April 11, 2023

Spectrum News

By Dylan Scott

AUSTIN, Texas — “It was very life-changing, and I want to see if I can positively impact the lives of others as well,” state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-District 19, told Spectrum News 1 recently.

Battling a rare kidney disease for more than half his life, Hancock, like nearly 10,000 other Texans, lived and waited for a miracle.

“I’ve known for 31 years this day would come,” Hancock said. “Seven years ago, was told I was a year or two away from dialysis.”

Sen. Hancock recently introduced Senate Bill 1249, which will increase education on the living donor registry program across Texas. (Spectrum News 1/Dylan Scott)

When his health became dire last year, eight members of Hancock’s family stepped up and were tested as a possible match for a kidney transplant. His son-in-law, Greg Cox, proved to be the best fit for surgery and donated his kidney this past July.

“I think the fact that we can do that is pretty cool,” Cox said. “If you’re on the fence, and you’d like to do it, there’s plenty of people that need it. Honestly, I got more out of it than Kelly did.”

Turning his plight into public policy, Hancock filed Senate Bill 1249, a bill that was unanimously passed in the Senate to bring educational resources to the living organ donor registry, which started in Texas.

“Once they are knowledgeable about the opportunity that there is a calling to do that and if they feel led, we want to provide the information,” Hancock said.

According to Donate Life Texas, nearly 10,000 Texans are awaiting an organ transplant and up to 96% of donations can be met through living donors. (Spectrum News 1/Dylan Scott)

Besides registering at the DMV, this legislation will make donor information more readily available on state websites and platforms, a much-needed boost according to Donate Life Texas Executive Director Chad Carroll.

“I don’t think people in Texas are aware that they can become a living donor and how great the need is,” Carroll said. “We’re excited to update our education to include living donors as a viable solid option for those looking to save someone’s life.”

According to the organization, 96% of the state’s organ needs, which are almost all kidney and liver transplants, can be met through living participants.

“Hopefully we can improve lives through the marketing and educational process,” Hancock said. “Eventually the living list of donors grows where there isn’t a huge deficiency and need.”

Sen. Hancock and son-in-law Greg Cox shared their personal story during testimonials for SB 1249 at the State Capitol. (Courtesy: Sen. Hancock)

Senator Kelly Hancock on Lone Star Politics: Budget Proposal in the Texas Legislature

April 9, 2023


Sen. Kelly Hancock opens up about rare kidney disease, as he advocates for Texas bill to increase living organ donors

April 6, 2023

Texas Tribune

Hancock, a North Richland Hills Republican, was diagnosed at age 27 with a rare genetic kidney disease that occurs when the immunoglobulin A antibody builds up in the kidneys.

By James Barragán

For 30 years, Sen. Kelly Hancock kept his battle with a rare genetic kidney disease quiet.

But last July, he received a lifesaving kidney transplant from his son-in-law, and now Hancock wants more Texans to know that they too could save someone’s life by becoming a living organ donor.

To that end, Hancock has filed Senate Bill 1249 to create a state program that would educate the public about becoming a living organ donor.

“That’s why we’re bringing it to life,” Hancock said in an interview. “We have a chance to make a positive difference.”

The Senate approved the bill unanimously and it now heads to the House.

At driver’s license offices, the state already asks Texans if they want to donate their organs upon their death. But Hancock’s bill would require the state to also educate Texans about becoming donors while they live by posting information about how to register in the offices and on websites of the Texas Department for State Health Services and the Texas Department of Public Safety, which runs the state’s driver’s license offices.

Approximately 10,000 Texans are awaiting a lifesaving organ donation, and 85% of them are waiting for a kidney. Most people can live normal lives with just one healthy kidney, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

Hancock, a North Richland Hills Republican, was diagnosed at age 27 with a rare genetic kidney disease that occurs when the immunoglobulin A antibody builds up in the kidneys. That leads to inflammation, which can harm the organ’s ability to filter waste from blood.

The disease varies from person to person, with some eventually achieving remission and others experiencing kidney failure. No cure exists.

When he was diagnosed, doctors told Hancock his kidney would eventually give out. For three decades, he managed the disease with a strict diet and exercise regimen and tried to live as normal a life as possible. He’s run six marathons in his life and been an elected state official for the last 16 years, all while his kidney has been functioning at less than 50%.

Seven years ago, Hancock’s doctor told him he was a few years away from needing dialysis, a procedure that removes excess water and waste from the blood when kidneys can no longer do that naturally. (Usually, a patient will go on dialysis when they only have 10% to 15% of their kidney function left.) He shared the news with his family but otherwise doubled down on his strict diet and exercise routine to stave off dialysis a few more years.

“[It] was funny because everybody thought, golly, he’s really getting healthy, and it was kind of the opposite,” he said.

But during the last legislative session, Hancock, who tests his kidney’s function on a daily basis and drinks a gallon of water a day to keep his levels where they need to be, started realizing his kidney was giving out. He had difficulty putting his shoes on every day. When he did his regular testing with his doctor at the end of the legislative session, his doctor called him back almost immediately and told him his kidney’s function had dropped to unsustainable levels.

That Thanksgiving weekend, Hancock, now 59, told his family the news. Eight of his family members, including his wife, siblings and three adult children, got tested to see if they were matches for a kidney donation.

In the end, two of Hancock’s daughters and one son-in-law, Greg Cox, were matches for a kidney donation. Both of those daughters had recently given birth and Cox, who doctors said was the best match, offered to give his kidney to Hancock.

“I found out and just immediately thought, ‘Yeah, I was made to do this. This is why I’m here,’” said Cox, 35, who still tears up talking about his decision to give his kidney to his father-in-law. “It’s just one of those moments where, a moment of clarity and feeling like this is what God has for me.”

The two men put themselves through a slew of tests and appointments to prepare for the transplant. On July 13, the two underwent the procedure at Medical City Fort Worth and Hancock was cleared to return to normal activities by October.

Cox, who testified in support of the bill in a Senate committee last week, said he hopes the bill will normalize people signing up to be living donors. He said he gets two reactions when people learn he donated his kidney to his father-in-law: adoration or utter disbelief.

“These surgeries are very common. The outcomes are extremely good, especially if you’re younger and in relatively good health,” Cox said. “For some minor discomfort and minor inconvenience, a chance to save somebody’s life and to improve somebody’s life 180 degrees is absolutely worth it. I hope that the reaction to living kidney donation is less of a weighty thing to people.”

The discussion was weighty even for Hancock’s family. After Cox signed up to donate his kidney, Hancock would tell him if he got a kidney from a deceased person, he would take that instead.

“I would tell him, ‘I’m giving my kidney to somebody, so you might as well take it,’” Cox said.

Chad Carroll, executive director of Donate Life Texas, which manages the state’s organ and tissue donor registry, said he supports Hancock’s bill because it could make more people aware that they could save someone’s life through organ donation while they are alive.

“If we only leverage what we run in Donate Life Texas in terms of the deceased registry, we just won’t be as effective getting after that problem of saving Texans’ lives,” he said. “So we must leverage living donation as an option to save additional lives.”

The general public is familiar with organ donation upon death, for which 14 million Texans have registered, Carroll said, but many Texans don’t know they could donate an organ such as a kidney while they are still alive.

“What this bill does is allows us to update the way we communicate with Texans about living donation, give them information on the various options out there,” Carroll said.

Hancock and Cox are now both fully recovered, and save some changes to Hancock’s taste buds (he’s picked up a liking for coffee since the surgery that didn’t previously exist) the two men are in fine health.

In testimony before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee approved the bill unanimously, Hancock took some legislative privilege to thank his son-in-law for giving him his kidney.

“Just to sort of, have it on the record,” Hancock said in front of his Senate colleagues, “Greg, thank you. You did literally save my life.”

After kidney transplant, North TX lawmaker proposes living organ donor education program

March 29, 2023

Fort Worth Star Telegram

By Eleanor Dearman

When he learned his kidney was a match for his father-in-law, state Sen. Kelly Hancock, Greg Cox said he didn’t hesitate.

“I think the Lord has stuff for you in your life, and I think this is just one of those things,” Cox said, standing outside the Senate chamber at the Texas Capitol. “When I found out I was a match, I didn’t think twice.”

Cox in July donated the organ to Hancock, who has for years had a chronic kidney disease called igA nephropathy — Berger’s disease. Now, the North North Richland Hills Republican senator is working to educate Texans on becoming a living organ donor.

A Senate committee on Wednesday advanced a bill that would require the Texas Department of State Health Services to create a living organ donor education program to help people learn more about the need for living organ donors.

The program would include information about how to register as a potential living organ donor with a registry.

A program called the National Donate Life Living Donor Registry is currently under development, having completed its first pilot phase in October 2021 in Texas, with plans to grow it nationwide, according to Hancock’s office. It is primarily for kidney donations, but there are opportunities to donate parts of other organs, said Chad Carroll, executive director of Donate Life Texas.

If the bill passes, information about being a living organ donor would be posted online on the websites for DSHS and the Texas Department of Public Safety. Currently driver’s license applicants can register to be an organ donor after death.

Nationally, more than 100,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant, according to Donate Life America.

“Until you’ve gone through it, until you’ve had a family member go through it, you really don’t know how far we’ve come with surgery and healthcare,” said Hancock, who said he was close to having to go on dialysis before getting a kidney transplant.

Cox, who is an attorney founding principal at law and public affairs firm Clearfork Strategies, said he thinks it’s important to let people know they have an ability to save a life and help another person.

Hancock said he’s doing great since the surgery.

“There are things I’ll do the rest of my life: Do my vitals every day for the rest of my life. I’ll take medicine the rest of my life, but I also have my life,” he said, adding that going on dialysis would have totally changed things for him.

The legislation passed out of the Senate Health and Human Services committee 7-0.

Capitol Update: Government That Works

March 16, 2023

Dear Friends,

Bill-filing deadline for the 88th Legislative Session was last week, and I’m reminded that the most important bills are the ones that are brought to me by constituents.

That’s where we really see government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” working the way it’s supposed to.

In fact, earlier this week, CBS 11 ran a story about our multi-session fight against surprise medical billing – and how it all started with a conversation with a constituent in the hallway at church! You can watch the story below.

This session, among the 45 bills I’ve filed on everything from appraisal reform to energy reliability, we’re working on another critical issue that was brought to our attention by a District 9 constituent…

In April of last year, a 15-year-old girl from Tarrant County went missing while attending an event at the American Airlines Center in Dallas County. Although her disappearance was immediately reported by her father to the local police department, he was told to return home to file a report at his local office and ended up facing multiple layers of jurisdiction confusion and delays.

10 days later, in Oklahoma, his daughter was recovered. She had become victim to sex trafficking.

Working closely with this family and law enforcement, we developed SB 2429, the Missing Child Act, which would provide clear-cut training and procedures for missing child cases, particularly when there is a high risk of trafficking or abuse.

I hope to have good news to share with you on these bills and others throughout the remainder of the legislative session. Thank you for taking the time to read through our Capitol Updates, and please don’t hesitate to reach out to our office at any point during the session to share your thoughts on matters before the Legislature.


Kelly Hancock
Texas Senate, District 9
Chair, Committee on Veteran Affairs
Vice Chair, Committee on Water, Agriculture & Rural Affairs

Senator Kelly Hancock on CBS News Texas: Preventing Surprise Medical Billing

March 13, 2023

Sen. Kelly Hancock Kidney Transplant Update – The Mark Davis Show, 660 AM The Answer

August 12, 2022

Texas Sen. Kelly Hancock recovering after kidney transplant

July 13, 2022

Fort Worth Star Telegram

By Eleanor Dearman

Texas Sen. Kelly Hancock is recovering after a successful kidney transplant on Wednesday, according to his office.

The North Texas senator’s son-in-law, Greg Cox, whose kidney was a match for Hancock, was a volunteer donor. Cox and Hancock are expected to make a full and speedy recovery, Hancock’s office said in a news release.

Hancock has lived with a chronic kidney disease — igA nephropathy, also called Berger’s disease — for more than 30 years, NBC DFW reported after speaking to the senator before the surgery.

“Each of us faces unique challenges in life,” Hancock said in a statement. “Robin and I decided years ago that we wouldn’t let this disease slow us down, and I couldn’t be more grateful to her and the rest of our family for their constant love and support.”

Hancock, a Republican, represents state Senate District 9, which after redistricting covers much of north and east Tarrant County, including parts of Fort Worth.

State Sen. Kelly Hancock Receives Kidney Donation From Son-in-Law, Both Recovering Well

July 13, 2022


Senator Kelly Hancock of North Richland Hills has had a rare kidney disease for more than 30 years. Earlier today he had surgery to receive a donated kidney from his son-in-law. We are able to report that both are doing well tonight, before his surgery, they sat down exclusively with political reporter Julie Fine, to talk about his journey.

TX Sen. Kelly Hancock Recovers After Receiving a Kidney from His Son-in-Law

July 13, 2022


North Richland Hills state senator has had a rare kidney disease for more than 30 years

By Julie Fine

Before Wednesday, few people knew State Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) had been diagnosed with a rare kidney disease for more than three decades.

Thanks to a donation from his son-in-law, Hancock underwent a successful transplant Wednesday afternoon and both men are doing well in recovery.

Prior to the surgery, Hancock and his son-in-law spoke with NBC 5.

“I don’t look like that I have organs failing. I do. I have had one failing for a long time,” said Hancock, who is an energetic lawmaker and a marathon runner. “I have wanted to live a full life without people knowing, or feeling sorry for me, or whatever, in order to get to the point that I could say, that I could be here and say, ‘God is sufficient and I am good with it.’”

Hancock made a visit to his doctor 31 years ago after not feeling well while playing racquetball. Tests would reveal he had IgA nephropathy, also known as Berger’s disease.

The disease occurs when immunoglobulin A deposits build up in the kidneys, causing inflammation that damages kidney tissues. IgA is an antibody—a protein made by the immune system to protect the body from foreign substances such as bacteria or viruses, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Moving forward, Hancock was regularly tested for kidney function, watched his diet and tried to stay as healthy as possible. Six years ago, he was told he would need a kidney within two years. He beat the clock, for years, until late last year when his doctor said he was at a point where he needed a new kidney.

“There is a threshold that you can’t get on the transplant list until you are bad, bad, bad, and so I had to be bad, bad, bad to get there, and he was like, ‘Alright, I need you to come in and test again,’ and that is when I was like, ‘OK, I am there,’” said Hancock.

Then it came to telling his family, which he did at Thanksgiving. At first, he tried to make light of it, but they all faced the reality.

“That is when I told them, I said, ‘Look, I was making light because that is what I do. That is how I deal with stuff.’ But the reality is I need a kidney and you know the only way really to do it is that I am going to have to be on dialysis for five to seven years to qualify for a deceased donor,” Hancock explained.

But his family was quick to get tested to see if they could make a donation to him. It turned out, it wasn’t a blood relative that was the best match.

“I got tested thinking of course I’ll be supportive. I’ll go get tested. There is no way this would work, thinking my wife would be the match, or somebody else,” said son-in-law Greg Cox. “You don’t get the opportunity to help somebody like this, and Kelly would do the same for anybody that he loved without thinking, without having to be asked, and so it’s neat to be able to do it.”

Through everything, the Hancocks have relied on faith and stayed positive.

While he has kept the news of his transplant to himself, for the most part, Hancock now said he wants to raise awareness.

Through this, he said, he has seen first-hand the need that is out there and that the healthier you are the lower you are on the list for a transplant and the longer you will be on dialysis because of greater demand than supply.

“I was blessed, incredibly fortunate to have a living donor — 2.5% of the people who have kidney transplants do it before going on dialysis,” said Hancock, adding “organ donation is very feasible, it is very doable, and I don’t think we promote it enough or talk about it enough and it is a very private issue, but we wanted to bring attention too. We can address these issues. We can address these needs. And people, there is a need.”

The recovery for Hancock and Cox isn’t easy and could take several months. But they are ready and hope their story will help others.

Hancock is serving in his third term in the Texas legislature. He is running against Democrat Gwenn Burud in November.

“As a fellow Texan, I am joined by my staff, volunteers and supporters as we keep Senator Hancock and his family in our hearts and minds,” Burud said in a statement Wednesday night.

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