Born in Derry City, Ireland, some may say Paddy McConnell certainly has the luck of the Irish in his blood when you take into account where he is today versus 12 years ago.
At age 40, Paddy suffered a mini stroke due to high blood pressure, unbeknownst to him. While he changed medications, followed doctor’s orders, and attempted to get it under control, his kidneys slowly deteriorated over the years, leaving him with complete renal failure.
Paddy had been placed on the transplant list at the end of 2016, after he connected with UPMC Pinnacle.
“All of my initial tests indicated I was a good candidate for a transplant and they placed me on the deceased donor list. My wife’s friend, Tina, visited us one day and asked out of the blue, ‘How do I become a donor?’”
Anyone who knows Tina would describe her as humble. Never seeking fanfare and always willing to help others, donating her kidney to one of her best friend’s husband didn’t seem like a big deal. She has been a registered organ donor for years so it was a no-brainer.
In disbelief, Paddy gave her the number to UPMC Pinnacle and she got tested. While she wasn’t a perfect match, she went into a paired exchange program and decided to give up her kidney so her friend’s husband could get one. Paddy had his surgery Nov. 6, 2018.
While that day will forever stand out in his mind with gratitude, so did the care and support he received from his medical team, family, friends, and colleagues.
“Dr. Ladie is a fantastic surgeon. She talked to me before the surgery and visited me every day after. The entire team supported me and explained what was happening as well as what was required of me, of course, because you have to take care of your new organ. The transplant team was always on hand and willing to answer my questions.”
After two paired exchange chains fell apart, Paddy wanted to believe the third time would be the charm, but wasn’t convinced.
“I figured, if it happens it happens. I don’t worry about yesterday or tomorrow. I live in the moment and I will deal with things as they occur.”
When Paddy saw Dr. Ladie in her scrubs and he was under the surgical light in the OR, he knew it was definitely happening.
Tina was up and moving the same day as her surgery, which occurred on a Tuesday. She was sent home the following day and back to work on Friday. Today she says she feels great and has no restrictions.
“I have been through so much and I knew what I could handle and what I could not. I never took a pain pill. After nine operations on my stomach, which included three caesarian sections, appendix removal, and a complete hysterectomy, donating my kidney wasn’t difficult.”
For Paddy, his tenacity and outlook on life that ‘everything happens for a reason,’ has served him well. From working while on dialysis, to supporting his stepson while he fought Leukemia to getting close to a transplant twice before it actually happened, Paddy is a big believer in the power of positive thinking. He’s also a big believer in becoming a living donor.
Likewise, while helping others in need always has been second nature for Tina, she admits when it happens to you, it gives you a different outlook. Anyone who may be hesitant about becoming a living donor, she said, should “just do it.”
“If you’re capable and have that opportunity, go with it. I never knew anyone who needed anything, but figured if I can help someone I will. I didn’t do this for acknowledgement. I just did it because the man needed it.”
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