The Challenge: Kidney Failure
15 years ago, Lori Curry was diagnosed with end-stage kidney disease. The decline of her kidney function was gradual, but continual. Her husband, Andre, seeing this decline first-hand, was heartbroken to watch his wife suffer and was willing to do anything possible to save her life.
“I would come home from work and see the discomfort she was in and I just wanted to do something” he said.
One of the most visible signs of Lori’s illness was the swelling of her limbs that affects many patients with kidney disease.
“I gave a testimony at my church about how I hadn’t worn my wedding rings in 15 years because I couldn’t get them on,” Lori said.
She started dialysis in 2015, but knew a kidney transplant was her best option for recovery, as her kidney was only functioning at three percent.
Dialysis is only a supportive therapy for kidney disease symptoms, not a cure of the disease itself. It consists of filtering patient’s blood through a dialysis machine and removing body waste and excess fluids when the kidneys cannot function adequately. Without a transplant, dialysis must be done a few times each week for life.
For patients with kidney disease, a kidney transplant is a curative and life-changing alternative to dialysis. Those who receive a kidney transplant live longer, have fewer medical complications and an overall higher quality of life than those on dialysis.
The Path to UPMC
The wait for a kidney transplant can take years, and many patients will not receive a transplant in time. Luckily, Lori was aware of the UPMC Kidney Transplant Program and knew that a living-donor kidney transplant was an option.
During a living-donor kidney transplant, the surgeon takes a healthy kidney from a living donor, and transplants it into the recipient with the failing kidney. The living donation also allows those on the waiting list to receive an organ sooner and helps to reduce the shortage of organs.
Potential living donors can be friends, family members, or strangers who wish to help someone in need. Any adult in good mental and physical health can be a potential living donor.
Lori’s next step was to find a suitable donor.
Andre and Lori have two daughters who both made the brave decision to be tested as potential donors for their mom. Andre, who had a very busy work schedule at the time, was hopeful that one of the girls would be able to become her donor. However, after the extensive pre-transplant evaluation, neither of their daughters were approved as suitable living donors.
The Solution: A Husband’s Love Saves his Wife’s Life
Once Lori and Andre knew their daughters could not donate and Andre’s work schedule wasn’t as busy, he decided to be tested as a potential donor.
That moment started their journey and Andre was approved by the transplant team to give his wife a second chance at life.
“I just wanted to enhance my wife’s quality of life,” he said. “She told me after the surgery that she was in pain every day and I didn’t know.”
On Oct. 31, 2017, Lori and Andre underwent a successful living-donor kidney transplant. The recovery process was typical for a transplant, and Andre and Lori followed the transplant team’s guidelines for the easiest recovery possible.
The Results: Wearing a Wedding Ring Again
Today, Lori and Andre are both doing great. Every day they wake up in amazement of how far they both have come.
“UPMC was such a major part of the recovery,” Lori said. “Their care and their expertise and knowledge is beyond what anybody can do.”
Lori’s disease progressed slowly, making it difficult to see how poor her health had become. After recovery was complete, everyone around her noticed how much she had changed and how much happier she was.
Today she enjoys exercising and playing with her grandkids, but one of the most significant moments for her was being able to put on her wedding rings for the first time in more than a decade.
Andre insisted that, if possible, he would do it again, no matter how difficult the recovery process was for him.
“The bottom line is that he gave me a kidney because he loves me,” Lori said.
Learn more about becoming a living donor, like Andre.
Lori and Andre’s treatment and results may not be representative of all similar cases.