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Sara Herrick: Transplant Patient Story

During the summer of 2002, a woman from my church asked our pastor if she could put a notice in the bulletin that she needed a kidney donor. Vicki had both her kidneys, but one was essentially non-functioning. She found out that her other kidney had a mass on it and would need to be removed. This was the impetus for her request. Our pastor was initially reluctant but agreed.

Living Donor

The Decision

I have been a designated organ donor on my license for many years, but my thoughts never once turned to being a living donor. I saw Vicki’s notice and felt a nudge to go and talk with her about what was involved. I went so far as to say that I was asking for someone else. She gave me the information about who to contact. I thought about it for a few weeks assuming that others would come forward to help. Indeed, there were others. Even so, I decided to contact the Transplant Program at UPMC Pinnacle.

I have a very strong faith in God, so I felt that if I went through the testing and interviews needed, I would accept whatever happened as being what He wanted. Each step of the way, as each report was positive, I continued on to the next obstacle. As it turned out, the others that had come forward to be tested were not matches for Vicki. I, however, was an almost perfect match.

Preparing for the Big Moment

Now, it was time to tell Vicki. It was October and I had done my psychological interviews. I was questioned about my support system among other things. Financially, I would be able to take the required time off without difficulty, even without pay. I know that this is not the case with all donors.

Vicki needed to be on dialysis for six weeks before she could have the transplant, so our surgery was scheduled in January of 2003. I remember being in pre-op and having my friends and family there. Vicki and her husband were there, too.

I felt like I was very well prepared for surgery and knew what to expect. The surgery was a success! Vicki’s new kidney started forming urine right away. It was very exciting.

I remember her coming into my room to tell me the news and I couldn’t believe the change in her. She had color in her cheeks and looked great.

I stayed off the maximum of six weeks and returned to work. Vicki did well after the procedure and had few problems. She was able to have her anti-rejection drugs decreased to a low level without issue.

Living as a Living Organ Donor

Since then, I found out that the first successful living kidney donation was in Boston in the 1950s, between two identical twins whose surname was the same as mine: Herrick.

As for the both of us, we just celebrated our 15th anniversary on January 28. I have had no issues with having only one kidney and Vicki continues to do well. A win-win, in my book!

Learn more about living kidney donation at UPMC Southcentral Transplant.

- Sara A. Herrick, RN CVOR