The Challenge: Kidney Failure
Marisa Warford met Shelley Trondle when they began working for the same company. They shared an instant connection and quickly became close friends.
Doctors diagnosed Marisa’s husband, Reggie, with a deadly heart condition and put him on the heart transplant waiting list. Shelley stayed by her side.
“Shelley and her husband, Larry, would visit us in the hospital and bring us dinner and lunches. They were always there to help,” remembers Marisa. “Never did I imagine that our friendship would go to the level that it did.”
In 2014, despite a successful heart transplant at UPMC, Reggie went into kidney failure. He had to start dialysis shortly after his transplant surgery.
“This was a very difficult time for us,” says Marisa. “We felt so blessed that he was alive because of the heart transplant. But dialysis is very overwhelming, and we knew that time was limited.”
For people like Reggie, a kidney transplant is a life-changing alternative to dialysis. Most people who receive a kidney transplant live longer and have fewer medical complications than those on dialysis.
But, with more than 96,000 Americans on the waiting list for a kidney transplant, the wait can take years.
“If you don’t find a living donor, you're in for a very long wait. And that is a very difficult way to live,” says Reggie. “Luckily I had a living angel who wanted to help.”
The Path to Living Donation at UPMC
In February of 2015, after an extensive pre-transplant evaluation, doctors placed Reggie on the kidney transplant waiting list at UPMC.
At work one day, Marisa talked to Shelley about Reggie’s situation and the hardship facing their family.
Right away, Shelley wanted to help.
“Years before, my cousin needed a kidney transplant and I wanted to be her donor, but I wasn’t a match. I felt so hopeless watching her health decline until a donor finally became available,” says Shelley. “I felt that being Reggie's donor would allow me to help a wonderful family and honor my cousin at the same time.”
During a living–donor kidney transplant, surgeons remove a healthy kidney from a living person. They then transplant it into a person with a failing kidney.
Living donation helps reduce the shortage of organs and allows patients to receive a transplant sooner before they become too sick.
Friends, family members, and even strangers have chosen to become living donors to help people in need.
The Solution: A Paired Kidney Exchange
After discussing living donation with Larry and the rest of her family, Shelley had a pre-donation evaluation. She found out that she was a match for Reggie.
“When she told me she was going to be my donor, I tried to act cool and stay calm. But on the inside by heart was melting,” says Reggie.
A few weeks before surgery, Shelley got a phone call from Amit Tevar, MD, of the UPMC Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Program. He asked if she'd be interested in taking part in a paired kidney exchange through the UPMC Live Donor Exchange Program.
A paired kidney exchange involves matching a donor and recipient with another donor-recipient pair. The transplant candidates exchange donors so that each recipient receives a kidney from the donor that's the best possible match.
Knowing that Reggie would receive a kidney from a more compatible donor — and she’d still be helping someone in need — Shelley agreed.
On April 18, 2017, Reggie underwent a successful living-donor kidney transplant that saved his life.
With the support of their families, both Reggie and Shelley have made a full recovery. Shelley returned to work part-time within four weeks. She was back to her full-time work schedule in six weeks.
The Results: Taking Part in a Miracle
Today, Reggie and Marisa could not be more thankful for the gift that Shelley gave them.
“To be able to look a living donor in the eyes and thank them is just extremely rewarding. There aren't enough thanks to say,” says Reggie. “It has totally changed me and given me a new life.”
For Shelley, helping Reggie has been a life-changing experience.
“I was given the opportunity to participate in a miracle. How often does that actually happen in someone’s life?”
Shelley and Reggie’s treatment and results may not be representative of all similar cases.
Learn More About Living-Donor Kidney Transplant
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