A Folsom prison inmate who deserted his family before his 13-year-old daughter was born donated one of his kidneys Tuesday to keep her alive.
David Patterson, 34, serving a seven-year sentence for burglary, and Renada Daniel-Patterson of Vallejo underwent the transplant surgery at UC San Francisco Medical Center. Patterson, who saw his daughter once, when she was 8, offered a kidney and an apology in a letter he wrote to her in November. "If you can forgive me, I will do my best to be the daddy I should have been a long time ago," he said.
The operations, first on Patterson and then on his daughter, spanned about three hours. Patterson was doing well, and Renada later was listed in stable condition, said Dr. Anthony Portale, a pediatric kidney specialist.
"The surgery went very well both for her and the donor," Portale said. He added that it could take months before it is known whether Renada's body accepts the kidney.
Father and daughter were briefly reunited before their operations Tuesday in an emotional meeting at the hospital.
"Thank you very much for giving me a chance. I love you," Renada said through tears.
Patterson was to be kept under constant guard while at the hospital, even during surgery.
"There is an officer in surgery," said Lt. Joy Macfarlane, public information officer at nearby San Quentin Prison. "He's not right at the table, but it's my understanding that he's in the operating room."
When Patterson leaves the hospital in five to seven days, he will go to San Quentin for further recuperation. After medical personnel sign off on his health, he will return to the state prison at Folsom, east of Sacramento.
Apparently Patterson has known for years that Renada was in need of a kidney, but no one ever asked him to donate one.
Patterson's daughter was born with only one kidney, which failed when she was 5. She received a new kidney, but her body rejected it a year later. Her mother was an unsuitable donor because she is diabetic.
As the girl waited for a suitable match to be found, she underwent dialysis three times a week. But she has grown more ill in recent months.
When Patterson offered his kidney, the Corrections Department at first insisted that the girl's family pay $8,000 for the security detail needed for the prisoner. But officials relented after learning that the girl's condition was life-threatening and her family was unable to pay.
"It's got to be done. She needed it and I'm giving it to her, without a doubt," Patterson said. "She's my daughter, and I love her."
"He's definitely been a non-presence, no-help kind of person," Renada's mother, Vickie Daniel, who never married Patterson, told reporters. But on Tuesday, she said, "he'll make a difference."
Patterson began serving his seven-year sentence in January 1994, but is expected to be released in July 1997 with credit for good behavior.