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Patient Story

A Pennsylvania Paired Kidney Donation

Yes, it does take a team! And it takes groups of well-trained and dedicated professionals within that team to bring about a successful transplant. It really is quite a journey.

I had been on the deceased donor kidney transplant list for more than three years. I had informed my church family, my business associates, and my own family and friends of my need for a kidney. I told many people in my social network, but I did not tell a young friend of mine, Jeanette Diaz-Tolin (Jay).

My husband and I had sponsored Jay into the Milton Hershey School. We saw her to be a truly promising young person and wanted to give her the many opportunities that we knew the school would offer. I simply did not want to worry Jay, but when I became symptomatic in the beginning of 2010, I thought it best to now make her aware.

By this time, Jay had graduated college and was living in Pittsburgh, so I decided to e-mail her with the news of my health. Without giving it a second thought, she offered me one of her kidneys. I hesitated because she was young, and I knew that one day she would want children. With only one kidney, I feared it might be problematic, but she was determined. "What must I do?" she asked.

I gave her the telephone number of Jeri Goldman, RN, BSN, CCTC, my Pre-Transplant Coordinator. Jeri spoke with her and scheduled a number of tests, most of which she passed with flying colors. However, disappointingly, we were not a match. Blood typing revealed her to be an AB, and I was an O. It was suggested that we go on the Kidney Paired Donation List, a transplant option for patients with an incompatible living donor. This sounded like a wonderful idea as it would give me a much greater chance of being matched.

In early October, 2010, I became quite ill and found it necessary to go on peritoneal dialysis at home until a matching kidney could be found.

In January 2011, Jeri called me with some very exciting news! Through the Kidney Paired Donation List, they had found a match for Jay's kidney, and they had found a kidney for me. It was my understanding that Jay's kidney was compatible with a woman named Regina in Pittsburgh, and that her donor, Marlane, also from Pittsburgh, was compatible with me. So the complete chain would involve two donors and two recipients.

Surgery was February 21, 2011. My new kidney was flown to Harrisburg International Airport and then brought to Harrisburg Hospital where I waited. The surgery went well, and the kidney worked beautifully, pouring out its golden liquid. I was so elated that the Kidney Paired Donation List existed, as it lessened my wait time and allowed me to receive a kidney from a live donor. What a blessing!

When I asked Jay what this kidney donation meant to her, she responded, “This was a life-changing experience for me, and it has taught me that miracles do happen. Anything is possible if you are willing to believe that it will happen. Life is such a blessing. We don't always appreciate it until something goes wrong. We should all treasure our life daily, and when possible, take the time to help others. I am so thankful for the opportunity.”

About three weeks into my recovery, I was told that my donor wanted to talk to me. To be able to thank this kind, generous and selfless woman was like the icing on the cake. I called Marlane to express my gratefulness, and we talked and talked like old friends.

When I asked Marlane to express her thoughts for this article, she e-mailed me this: “For me, this was one of the easiest decisions I have ever made. I knew a security guard in the building where I work, and he was on dialysis for quite awhile. He received a kidney, and when he returned to work, I was looking at a new man! Then Regina, a coworker of mine, told me she was on the Deceased Kidney List, but she knew that a living donor would be her best chance. This was an opportunity for me to do something that would make a tremendous difference in her life.

In the end, God did have a most excellent plan for us, and I count it a blessing to have been a part of it all! I want to extend my gratitude to the surgeons and the entire transplant team for their hard work and supportive efforts in this endeavor."

Regina sums up the experience by saying, “The Paired Kidney Program was a true miracle for me. When Marlane told me that she would give me a kidney, I thought she was joking. When she assured me she was willing to be a donor, I was stunned!”

Of all the advances made in renal transplantation in the last 10 years, paired donation has the greatest potential to extend the lives of more patients with kidney disease. And I'm thrilled to be a living example of that!

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