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Covins made medical history twice

By By LYDIA GRIMES Features writer
Loma Covin and her husband, Larry, have made medical history in the last few years. Loma donated her right kidney to Larry and he has undergone the procedure of having BAHA Implants for his hearing loss.
Now if that doesn't sound strange, consider the fact that the kidney donation was done laparoscopically, the first of its kind done at the University of Birmingham Hospital, and the BAHA Implants are the first performed by Dr. Dennis Papas in Birmingham.
In 1985 Larry Covin was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease. His mother had been diagnosed with it earlier and eventually had to be placed on dialysis. The disease is genetic and was passed on to Larry. After his diagnosis, he didn't have any problems for quite some time but he knew there would be a time in the future that he would have to have dialysis also.
During this same time he began to have hearing problems. He was employed in the power plant at Smurfit-Stone, and the noise was causing his hearing to deteriorate. He got a hearing aid, making it easier to hear away from work, but he couldn't wear it to work. With both conditions getting worse, his doctors encouraged him to retire. He had lost 96 percent hearing in his right ear and 38 percent in his left ear. Dr. Jeff Chicola told him that if he didn't stop working in the mill he would soon be completely deaf. At the same time Dr. Richard Mazey, his kidney doctor, told him his kidneys were getting worse and recommended retirement. So after working at "Container" for almost 30 years, he took their advice and left the mill in 2002 and officially retired in 2003.
After his retirement, Larry went to Dr. Papas in Birmingham who talked to him about a very new hearing device that he qualified for, called a BAHA Implant. He felt as if he had nothing to lose. It was the very first time Dr. Papas had performed the procedure-which consists of placing implants behind the ears to allow sound to be conducted through the bone instead of the middle ear. At the time of it took Blue Cross Insurance seven months to approve the procedure but he knew he needed to have it done.
At the same time his kidneys were getting worse and the subject of transplant came up.
In 2002 they traveled to Birmingham to be evaluated for a kidney transplant, and in return were told he was a good candidate for transplant and she could very possibly be the donor. They were also told that Larry needed to get as much out of his kidneys as possible before transplant. It was about two years before he began to continuosly feel bad and they knew it was time for a transplant. Loma went to UAB in April 2004 for extensive tests to make sure she could be the donor
Larry was unable to wait any longer, and plans were made to undergo the surgery in June. While Loma was being evaluated, the surgeon, Dr. Rizk El-Galley, came to see her and she asked him about laparoscopy surgery. This type of surgery requires much less recovery time as the incision is so much smaller. She was told that they needed to take her right kidney because the arteries were not perfect. The kidney was good, but wasn't as perfect as the left-and they always leave the best for the donor.
Larry was unable to wait any longer for the transplant so on May 25, 2004, they traveled to Birmingham for the surgery. Loma was told by Dr. El-Galley that he was going to try to take her right kidney laparoscopically but if he ran into any problems he would perform the kidney extraction via the traditional surgery. It is most common to use laparoscopic surgery on the left side as the veins are longer, Dr. El Galley said. In order to take the right kidney, Dr. El-Galley had to modify some of the surgical instruments. Everything went smoothly, and Loma's kidney extraction made medical history. She was home by the end of the week and recovered quickly. Larry, too, made a good recovery.
Loma was born in Artesia, Calif., and moved to Castleberry when she was about six months old. She grew up on a farm and attended school at Conecuh County High School in Castleberry, graduating in 1965. She said she was an average student doing all the normal things kids did in those days. After she became 16 and could drive, she would travel to Brewton. It was on one of those trips that she met Larry Covin. He was a student at W.S. Neal. They dated for a while before marrying in 1966. They tried living in Pensacola for a while but found city life was not for them.
When the girls were in school she started her banking career at Union Bank in Castleberry. She worked several places, ultimately, taking a break in 1978 to have twins, Andy and Wayne.
After the boys were in school, she returned to banking at the Bank of Brewton where she remains today working at the North Brewton Branch.
The Covins are now enjoying their five grandchildren and working around the farm at Castleberry. They attend First Baptist Church of Brewton. Loma says that she loves to help where she can.