The Challenge: Kidney DiseaseIn 2006, Tammy Galiano Merritt decided to give the ultimate gift — the gift of life. Doctors diagnosed Tammy's mother with kidney disease and she needed a transplant.
Tammy wanted to do everything possible to help her mother, so she had testing to be her living-kidney donor.
For people suffering from a chronic kidney disease — like Tammy’s mother — a kidney transplant is a life-enhancing option. Those who receive a kidney transplant generally live longer and have fewer medical complications than those on dialysis.
“Being on dialysis is very hard,” says Tammy. “It ruins the quality of your life and if I could do something to help I wanted to.”
Sadly — just a few months later — her mother’s kidney disease worsened and she passed away before receiving the transplant.
Tammy was devastated, but she continued to believe in the power of living organ donation.
“I figured it was not meant to be,” says Tammy. “I thought that I must have needed my kidney for someone else.”
The Path to Living Donation at UPMC
That day came just five years later when Tammy’s uncle, Richard Beatty, learned he was also diagnosed with kidney disease. Doctors placed him on dialysis.
“He called me and said that he was going to undergo testing to see if he was eligible for a transplant. I immediately said that if I could, I would be his donor,” remembers Tammy.
During a living-donor kidney transplant, surgeons remove a healthy kidney from a living person. They then transplant the healthy kidney into the person with a failing kidney.
Donors can be a relative, friend, or even an altruistic stranger.
With over 96,000 people on the kidney transplant waiting list, living donation allows someone to receive a life-saving transplant sooner.
“I was hesitant at first because I didn’t know what was going to happen,” says Richard. “Before that point, I did not even know that living donation was possible.”
But, Tammy was determined to help. After a thorough living-donor transplant evaluation at UPMC, she was a perfect match for her uncle.
“I thought back to my mom and how sick she was while on dialysis,” says Tammy. “I knew that if I could do something to help I had to.”
The Solution: Living-Donor Kidney Transplant
Tammy and Richard had a living-donor kidney transplant on March 19, 2013.
For Tammy, being able to save the life of someone she loves was overwhelming.
“It was a happy surgery for me,” remembers Tammy. “I went in with good thoughts and when I came out all I cared about was him and how he was doing.”
Tammy and Richard were both able to return home within a few days after the operation. Tammy was even able to go back to work about six weeks after the surgery.
The Results: A Healthy Kidney Donor and Recipient
Today, Tammy and Richard are both doing well. Richard is retired and enjoys spending time with his family and young grandson.
Tammy and Richard believe that more people need to know about living donor transplants, and what it means to be a live donor.
“I wish I had 10 more kidneys to give,” says Tammy. “If I could see 10 more people come off dialysis and live the life they deserve it would be great.”
Tammy and Richard's treatment and results may not be representative of all similar cases.
Learn More About Organ Donation and Kidney Disease
UPMC Transplant Services:
UPMC Health Library:
UPMC Kidney Clinics: