Russell Sublette lives art.
He has been a preparator at the Dallas Museum of Art for more than 30 years, creating mounts for pieces from Congolese sculptures to antique stained-glass doors. That’s him.
Then 14 years ago, Russell went on dialysis. He was told his career could be over once his kidneys began to fail. But it wasn’t. He continued to work during dialysis, which lasted about two years.
“It just became an exercise of willpower because my energy was gone,” said Russell, 53.
At the time, Russell would finish his work at the DMA, take a bus to the hospital for his dialysis treatments and then head home to his wife, Ivy, who was battling breast cancer.
“It was really tough,” Ivy said, “but I knew if he could make it, I could make it. And that’s kind of what we held onto: ‘We’re going to do it. We’re going to make it.’ ”
Russell was put on the list for a kidney transplant only a year before they failed.
He was called in to the hospital for transplants that turned out to be unusable — twice.
Then on Jan. 30, 2000, Russell got a page.
“I secretly thought, ‘I hope this one works out,’” he said. “I had seen my wife dissolve into tears after the last false alarm where they couldn’t use the kidneys. It was harder looking at her face than it was going through what I was going through at that moment. I didn’t want to face that disappointment again.”
This time, he would get the kidney.
“But until he went into the operating room, I was holding my breath,” Ivy said. “It’s always in the back of your mind: ‘Is this kidney going to be viable? Is he going to reject it? Is this going to be a new hell? Are we going through another phase of torture?’”