The Challenge: Chuck's Kidney Failure
Virginia Kerschbaumer and her older brother, Chuck Lutz, have always been close. Growing up, they looked after one another and remain close friends even as adults.
But, in March 2015, Chuck learned that his kidneys were failing, and he would need a transplant. He needed his sister more than ever.
“It all happened really sudden,” remembers Chuck. “It started in March, and by October, I was being placed on dialysis.”
The Path to Living Donation at UPMC Hamot
Shortly after, Chuck's care team at the UPMC Hamot Kidney Transplant Program placed him on the transplant waiting list.
UPMC Hamot is the first and only transplant center in the Erie region offering life-saving kidney transplants. The Hamot transplant team works closely with UPMC's Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Program of the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute in Pittsburgh.
Since 1988, UPMC surgeons have performed more than 4,200 kidney transplants and 1,000 living-donor kidney transplants.
While Chuck knew that living donor transplants were possible, he was hesitant. He didn't want to put anyone in his family at risk by asking them to be his donor.
But, when he called Virgina and told her the news, she had other plans.
“As soon as I found out, I said that I would go get testing,” says Virginia. “I just had a gut feeling that we would be a match.”
During a living–donor kidney transplant, transplant surgeons remove a healthy kidney from a living person. Then they transplant the healthy kidney into a person with a failing kidney.
With 96,000 people in the United States on the waiting list for a kidney transplant, living donation helps reduce organ shortage.
One of the many benefits of living donor transplants is that patients can have the transplant sooner before they get too sick.
The Solution: A Living-Donor Kidney Transplant
With a physically demanding job and two children, Virginia’s decision to donate was not one she took lightly. She knew she would need time off from work and the support of her family.
But, she felt that saving her brother was too important and decided to discuss the transplant with her daughters.
“My kids and I sat down and had a serious family talk. My husband had passed away shortly before, so they were very worried about me. But I told them that everything would be alright and that I had to do this for him,” says Virginia.
With the support of her family, Virginia had an extensive transplant evaluation and was a perfect match for her brother.
Just a few weeks later, on Aug. 11, 2016, Chuck and Virginia had a living-donor kidney transplant.
Because her surgery was minimally invasive, Virginia went home within just a few days. And she went back to work after about eight weeks.
The Results: Looking Forward to Hitting the Road Again
Today Chuck and Virginia are both doing well.
As a truck driver, Chuck is looking forward to heading back to work and hitting the road soon. He's very grateful for his sister and her choice to be his living donor.
“Thankfully she was there and willing to do this for me. I don’t know where I would be without her,” says Chuck.
Chuck and Virginia agree that more people need to be aware of living-donor transplants. And what it truly means to be a living donor.
“I would do it again for someone else if I could,” says Virginia. “If you have the ability to help someone else out, I think you need to do it.”
Chuck and Virginia’s treatment and results may not be representative of all similar cases.
Learn More about Living-Donor Kidney Transplant
UPMC HealthBeat Blog:
- Your Transplant Support System: Living Donor Champions
- How You Can Donate Life: Different Types of Organ Donation
- Can I Donate Certain Organs While I’m Still Alive?
- National Donate Life Month: About Organ Donation
UPMC Transplant Services: