Archive for April, 2010

It’s been just over a year since Karny Stefan was a living kidney donor for the husband of an acquaintance. But her experience helping someone who needed a kidney transplant transformed her. She heard that Jeff Wilson needed a kidney through an email appeal by his wife. He had a year to live and a 6- to 10-year wait for a kidney. (You don’t get moved up the kidney list for being sicker.)

Stefan was so moved by being a living kidney donor that she quit her job and took one in the kidney transplant division of a local children’s hospital.

“It’s sort of humbling that someone’s life was saved due to something I did that was no big deal,” said Stefan, who spent two days in the hospital for the transplant. “I wish everyone knew how easy it was, how low-risk and relatively painless, and how rewarding.”

Baby Jack Robinson has a new kidney, thanks to his cousin, Laura Scicutella.

His parents got tested when it was clear Jack needed a kidney transplant and figured at least one of them would be a match. Yeah, no.

“When they called me and said, no you’re not a match, and your husband’s not a match, I thought I was going to die,” Jack’s mom, Nilsa, said.

But before you could say “Jack Robinson” (look, it had to be said), a cousin, Laura Scicutella, stepped in.

“I was kind of like, all right let’s do it,” Scicutella said. “You know I just wanted to get it done for Jack. He was on dialysis every night and, you know, for a baby who’s a year old, that’s no way to live.”

Doctors think Jack’s new kidney will hold him into adulthood.

“She’s just my angel. She really is. She gave my son life,” Nilsa Robinson said of her cousin.

Chris Flohr heard that fellow Lutheran pastor Barbara Westhoff needed a kidney transplant through a prayer list mailed out by the local governing body for their denomination. He’d met Barbara a time or two at professional events.

When he realized how ill she was, Chris started looking into donating. All the testing went well, and Barbara will receive one of Chris’ kidneys on May 10.

Says Chris:

“At this end of it, I’m good to go. I’m really comfortable (and) at peace with going through the process and hoping for the best. …

“The spiritual and faith part that has occurred to me over and over,” Flohr said, “is the deep sense of joy to hopefully be part of an answer to prayer for someone.

“We talk about prayer a lot,” he added. “We know prayer is our hearts and our words. But often it’s our hands and our feet and our actions where prayer gets lived out, too.”

Barbara is grateful:

“I thank God and Chris,” Westhoff said. “It’s just amazing to realize that it’s coming up here very soon and to think of what a gift it is. There are not words to describe what an impact this will have on my life.”

Although an editorial says the kidney transplant vote will not be a big boost for her career, East Haven Mayor April Capone Almon donated a kidney this month to a resident of her Connecticut town.

The only thing that I can say is she felt compelled to do it,” said Councilman Paul Thompson, D-3, who, like McKay, is a former council chairman.

Good for her.

Update: Turns out she donated her kidney to a stranger who had friended her on Facebook.

In January, Trish Rowden decided to be tested to see if she could be a living kidney donor to her friend Denny Johanning. They had the same rare blood type, after all.

“Trish just got it in her head that she wanted to give me a kidney,” says Johanning, “unbelievable!” …

“After being on dialysis for four years, I am feeling SO much better!” exclaims Johanning. …

“I wish more people would consider doing it [organ donation],” says Rowden, “It is not hard to do and to give someone a better quality of life is pretty amazing.”

That it is.

There’s more than one way to be a match, and Denise and Richard Glenn match in a number of ways. Next month, Denise will donate one of her kidneys to husband Richard.

“He was very quiet and subdued, because he didn’t want me to have to go through that,” Denise said. “He didn’t want to take a kidney away from me, but I said, ‘You’re not taking it. I’m giving it.’” …

“About half of the transplants we do are done with living donors,” said Sue Miller, manager of the kidney/pancreas program at the Nebraska medical center where the Glenns will have surgery. Of that number, about half are blood relatives, she said. The other half consists of non-related people such as spouses or friends.

Utah residents Marcus and Monica Gilbert were honored with the American Express “Heroes Among Us” award last week for their decisions to be living kidney donors.

Marcus donated his kidney to Juan Delgado, a 17-year-old who worked for him at a local restaurant. Monica followed suit and donated to a stranger named Pepe Sione.

Not a lot of detail in the articles on this one, but congrats to the Gilberts on their well-deserved honor!

Fellow Pittsburgher John Kanche Jr. has me beat.

(He) shares an immune system with his sister, Michele Fetting, through a transplant of his stem cells in September. And his father, John Kanche Sr., has one of his son’s kidneys through a transplant the previous December. …

“I’m just so grateful to him for saving my life and saving my Dad’s life,” said Ms. Fetting. “Neither one of us would probably be here if it wasn’t for him.” …

“My personal satisfaction out of it is that it’s extending their lives,” he said. “Being able to play tennis with Michele and golf with my Dad are things that I can do a little longer.”

Congrats to the Kanche family on so much good medical fortune and on a son raised so right.

When I was getting tested to donate a kidney to a stranger, some of the medical people I met were really amazed that I would do it, and I remember wondering why they did not. How could they see the suffering of people in renal failure and not donate one of their kidneys?

I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but now I kind of wonder if it isn’t actually seeing all that suffering that stops them from donating. They see what can happen, and though the rational mind knows that donating a kidney does not put one at risk for renal failure, the realities are too visceral. They give and help and care in other ways instead.

But then along comes EMT Tracy Franklin, who decided to donate a kidney to his on-again, off-again co-worker Mary Lynne Massey, a nurse.

“Tracy came to me and said he wanted to be tested,” said Massey. “I couldn’t believe it. He made me give him the number, and he went from there. He called me on December 23rd to tell me he was a match.”

Maybe it seems like an obvious thing for a medical person to do, but I’m telling you, it’s more impressive than when the rest of us donate. Their surgeries are on April 14. Best wishes!

As donor swaps (I donate to your friend, you donate to mine) become more elaborate, Loyola University Medical Center has launched a program it’s calling Pay It Forward. Under the program, chains of matching living kidney donors are assembled through a registry. Usually the chain comes to a screeching halt at some point and will not form a circle. That’s where a stranger comes in.

The so-called altruistic donor (Don’t get me started. All kidney donors are altruistic, but these do not have a particular person in mind.) completes the circle. The leftover person from the final pair (since the stranger doesn’t have a friend who needs a kidney) donates to someone on the official UNOS list. Ba-dow!

“The whole paradigm is radically shifting,” said Dr. John Milner, program director of Loyola’s Living Donor Program. Rather than hoarding living kidney donors for their own use, as some hospitals do, Loyola’s program shares kidney donors with a nationwide registry through the National Kidney Registry.

Hurray for Loyola for looking at the best way to get living donor kidneys to people who need kidney transplants, rather than the best way to follow standard procedures.