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The page-44 story that changed the world

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Dr. Jared Grantham has dedicated his life to studying polycystic
kidney disease, which he says many researchers consider a "ho-hum
disease." The image at left on the screen is a normal kidney; the
kidney at right has PKD.

Dr. Jared Grantham has dedicated his life to studying polycystic kidney disease, which he says many researchers consider a "ho-hum disease." The image at left on the screen is a normal kidney; the kidney at right has PKD. by Terry Rombeck/Journal-World Photo

I talked over the phone last week with Jared Grantham, a KU Medical Center distinguished professor who has devoted his career to figuring out a kidney disease that affects hundreds of thousands of Americans.

He told me a story that didn't quite fit into the resulting article published this past weekend but is just too good not to pass on.

It came up after he asked me if I thought my story would end up on the front page or something more like page 44.

I laughed, but he said he didn't just pull that number out of nowhere.

Grantham told me that about 30 years ago, he ran into a Kansas City Star reporter who happened to be wandering hallways at the medical center, looking for a story. He talked to her about his research on polycystic kidney disease, which at that time was light years away from where it is today.

Afterward, he said, he watched the pages of the Star to see when and where the story might pop up. After several weeks of that, he called up the newspaper and found that the reporter no longer even worked there, he said, causing him to worry that his research made for such poor news material that it had gotten her canned.

But after awhile, he says, a story was finally published — on page 44.

That's not the end of the story, though. At least one person did thumb all the way to page 44 and read the story about PKD, and it was a Kansas City real estate developer named Joseph Bruening.

After he read it, he called up Grantham to talk about it. That conversation ultimately led the two to co-found the Kansas City-based PKD Foundation in 1982. Today it contributes millions of dollars each year to PKD research and education.

My story, by the way, ran on page 3 on Sunday.

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