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George and Christine McClure: Living-Donor Kidney Transplant Patient Story

George and Christine McClure

The Challenge: An Inflamed Kidney

Nearly 10 years ago, George McClure received a life-saving kidney transplant. Thanks to his sister, Nickey — and her selfless decision to become his living donor — George got a second chance at life.

After the kidney transplant, George felt healthy.

He spent his days working, running marathons with his wife, Christine, and watching his children grow.

Sometime later, George and Christine took a cruise to celebrate their anniversary, which they referred to as “Honeymoon: The Sequel.”

Before the cruise, George had been experiencing some fatigue, but it wasn’t until the couple got home that the dramatic decline hit.

“I was tired all the time — just feeling really ill,” George said. “I couldn’t eat as much. For several months, I spent most of the time in bed when I wasn’t working, while my family took care of me.”

Nephrologists at the UPMC Kidney Transplant Program diagnosed George with nephritisinflammation or scarring of the kidney.

“It’s hard to explain how you really feel when you are sick,” said George. “You can tell people as much as you want, but until they actually experience it, it’s difficult to understand.”

Being in this condition took an extreme emotional toll on George.

“For my wife, kids, family members, and friends to see me at an all-time-low — it was very tough. As a husband and father who likes to take care of my family — not being able to — it took something from me.”

The Path to UPMC: A Donor Kidney Exchange

As George’s health continued to decline, his nephrologist gave the McClure’s the news that George would need another kidney transplant to survive.

With 96,000 people on the kidney transplant waiting list, George knew that without a living donor, he'd be waiting a long time.

Feeling defeated, George was at a loss for words.

He had been down this road before and didn’t want to have to ask another family member to make such a commitment. For Christine, it was no question to decide to donate to her husband.

But — after a pre-donor kidney transplant evaluation — Christine found out she wasn’t a blood group match, causing more heartache for the couple.

Resolved not to give up, George and Christine considered another route: a live donor exchange through the UPMC Live Donor Exchange Program. Initially, they didn’t even know this was a possible solution.

“It began as a joke,” said Christine. “I told him, ‘What if I just give my kidney to someone else, and you could get one?’ But then I looked it up and discovered that we could actually do that.”

About one-third of kidney failure patients aren’t able to receive their living donor’s kidney because of some form of incompatibility. Because of this, the UPMC Live Donor Exchange Program may be the answer.

What is a live donor exchange?

In a donor kidney exchange, a living donor donates his or her kidney to another person who also has an incompatible donor. This allows both people on the waiting list to receive a transplant.

A donor kidney exchange offers many benefits, such as:

  • Reduced wait time.
  • Higher success rates.
  • More saved lives.

At first, George was resistant.

“My wife bullied me,” George laughed. “She told me ‘I can give you my kidney if I want to.’ So, I didn’t have a choice but to go through with it.”

The couple began their evaluations at the UPMC Kidney Transplant Program.

“It was a seamless process,” said Christine. “My coordinator was there constantly to ensure everything was in order. She’d call me at home to check up on me.”

On Oct. 4, 2016, George had a living-donor kidney transplant that saved his life.

As part of a six-person live donor kidney exchange, George is very proud of his wife and her selfless decision.

“It gives me chills to think about Christine’s bravery. You tend to see some sort of emotion or nervousness with any surgery. But she went in there laughing and telling stories to the doctors and nurses,” said George.

Christine said she was more worried about George. Post-surgery, she said she instantly looked for her husband.

“I needed to see him before he went in for his part of the operation. I was inching off the bed. I had to give the ugly cry for the nurses to agree to wheel me over to him,” Christine said.

The Results: A Healthy Couple

Today, the couple has been focusing on their future.

Christine is finishing grad school while George is starting, both at the University of Pittsburgh. They also have signed up to run in an upcoming marathon.

For anyone thinking about becoming a living donor, the McClure’s have a message:

“The greatest act of kindness and love a person can give is life,” said George. “Those first 10 years gave me time to be with my family, to be able to do different things. Now I have the opportunity to continue those things.”

Most importantly, the couple reflects on the journey they overcame together.

“You’ll just know that you made the right choice,” said Christine. “You’ve helped not just one person, but possibly a few others. It’s nothing to be afraid of, rather to be proud of.”

Learn More About Living-Donor Kidney Transplant

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