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Lifelong Friend Gives the Priceless Donation of a Kidney

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John badly needed a kidney; Terry didn’t hesitate to consider a living kidney donation.

Posted by Temple Health

John lives in Philadelphia. In the fall of 2021, he received a most generous gift — a kidney from a living donor who’d been his friend since childhood. Her name is Teresa, but everyone calls her Terry. Together, they're going to share how a Facebook post led to her amazing decision, and their hope that others might consider becoming living kidney donors, too. 

John and Terry share a moment after their surgeries.

We go way back

John: Terry’s parents and my parents were good friends. In the ‘50s, Terry’s family lived across the street from mine in the Bronx. Our parents developed a close relationship, and the children of both families did as well. My sister was Terry’s matron of honor. Terry was my sister’s maid of honor. We visited each other at Thanksgiving every year.

Terry: I’ve known John for his whole life. John’s parents were my godparents, and my parents were his brothers’ godparents. I would spend weeks at a time in the summer at John’s family’s house. He’s like a cousin to me. 

Sharing my health journey

John: I was diagnosed with kidney failure in 2017. I was hospitalized at my local community hospital, and then I had dialysis at an area clinic three times a week. Dialysis was a draining experience (pun intended). It filters out bloodstream impurities your kidneys can’t handle and excess fluid your body accumulates. Dialysis helped me feel better, but it was difficult — it radically affects your life. You can’t go anywhere because of how often you get treatments; the struggle prevented me from holding down my job as an attorney. I felt pretty useless on the days I had dialysis. Those were reasons why I hoped to one day get a kidney transplant. Without it, I would’ve had to be on dialysis for the rest of my life.

Terry: My husband and I knew John had kidney problems. He was quiet about it in the beginning, but we knew he was waiting for a kidney.

John: In September 2017, I was referred to a transplant center and wait-listed to receive a donor kidney. When that center closed in 2019, my doctor recommended Temple’s Kidney Transplant Program. By 2019, I was high on the transplant list and thought I might get a kidney soon. When that didn’t happen, I felt depressed. I’m a private person, so posting on Facebook that I was looking for a living kidney donor was a big step for me. But now I realize that I should have done it sooner. 

Terry: Until John shared that on Facebook, it never occurred to me that being a “living donor” was even an option. 

John: My post described how finding a living donor would hopefully allow me to get a kidney much sooner than being on the waiting list for a deceased donor. It would also give me a chance to have a better surgical outcome, since a kidney from a living donor tends to last longer and function better. I included this line in my Facebook post, “If there’s anyone out there feeling like they want to cough up a kidney, please feel free!” The post was mostly serious, but there was some humor in it.

Terry: I thought about John’s post for a while and then said to my husband, “Jim, what do you think?”

Now, you need to know something about me. Even though I’m married to a doctor, I have a horrible anxiety and fear of all things medical. I have an absolute panic attack dropping somebody else off at the hospital, never mind going myself. I didn’t think I’d be a match for John, but I at least had to try.

John: When Terry texted that she would go through the process to find out if she was a donor match, I was thrilled. Because she was always a giving person, I knew she had it within her to do something like that. So, I wasn’t shocked when she said she’d donate her kidney. I was pleasantly surprised. 

The donor match process 

Terry: John put me in touch with a transplant coordinator at Temple. I then went through the process of determining if I was a match, which involved having several tests over the next few months. A Temple social worker also helped me through the process. Among other things, she encouraged me to make sure I had the support of my family, which I did. 

As much as possible, Temple tried to help me avoid coming down to Philadelphia during the process since I live in Connecticut. For instance, I was able to have some telemedicine appointments. Temple also made sure I understood every step of the process and the risks and potential complications, which were very low. They did a great job of preparing me for the surgery. 

I was grocery shopping when I got the call that I was a match for John. I started jumping up and down and screaming, and the people around me probably thought, “Is that woman OK?’ 

‘Hey, John, is that you?’

John: The transplant surgery was October 19, 2021. They wheeled me down to surgery in the morning. I was in pre-op, and in the area next to me was Terry. 

Terry: All of a sudden I heard John’s voice behind the curtain. I said, ‘Hey, John, is that you?’ He answered, ‘Yeah, is that you?’ We started talking, and that took my mind off the upcoming surgery. 

John: We were able to converse up to the time of surgery, just joking around to keep it light. I was ready to get it done. My transplant surgeon was Dr. Sunil Karhadkar and he was great. 

Terry: They wheeled John into the OR first. My surgeon, Dr. Antonio Di Carlo, entered and I burst into tears. He was a sweetheart. He looked at me and said, ‘You say the word and we stop this here.’ I said, ‘I’m going to do this.’ In the operating room, I remember looking at a light, and then I opened my eyes in a post-surgery recovery area, asking about John. 

After one night in the hospital at Temple, I stayed at Gift of Life Family House in Philadelphia for a few days until I felt strong enough to travel home to Connecticut. A week into my recovery, I was moving around pretty well. After a couple weeks, I felt completely fine.

So few people understand that they can possibly be a living donor. If I can get one person to think about it, then it’s worth it to let others know of my choice to help John. Being a donor is nowhere near as hard or frightening as you might think. I won’t say it’s easy, but every step of the way there are people to support you. 

— Terry

About that Philly cheesesteak

John: I stayed six days in the hospital. By the third or fourth day, I wasn’t feeling too bad at all. Now, over a year later, I've recovered and am moving forward with my life. I have more energy now that I’m off dialysis, and I can do way more in a day than I could before. Because I don’t have to go to dialysis, I also have more free time to visit my friends. I hope to travel and work again someday. 

Terry gave me the gift of life. Words cannot convey how amazing that is. I loved her before this happened, and I love her more now. She says she’s not a hero, but what she did for me was heroic. 

I also want to thank many other people who supported me, including my friend and caregiver Bill, my New York family, and the Temple doctors. I’m grateful to so many people — I feel like an Oscar winner.

John and Terry (before the transplant).

Terry: Everybody has someone they’d do this for. So, no, I’m not a hero. John likes to say that, and I keep telling him not to. But he does still owe me a Philly cheesesteak. After a day of pre-surgery testing, my husband and I went to dinner with John before our trip home to Connecticut. John offered to pay for our meals, but I joked with him that it might look as though he was trying to buy a kidney. I told him he’s buying me a cheesesteak the next time we’re in Philadelphia. 

John: I owe Terry Philly cheesesteaks for life. But she needs to know how to order them – that’s “wit” or “witout” fried onions, as we say in Philly. She hasn’t gotten her cheesesteak yet because she never gave me a proper order!

I should have shared my need for a kidney a couple of years earlier. You’ve got to try to help yourself. The more people who know about it, the more people are likely to respond. And it can save your life.

— John

Be a kidney donor

There are many things to consider when deciding whether to become a living kidney donor. At Temple, experts in the living kidney donor program help donors and recipients understand what’s involved in this generous choice. 

Temple’s Kidney Transplant Program offers options for people with end-stage kidney disease, including dialysis and kidney transplant

To make an appointment with a Temple expert, call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536). Or click here.

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