Kidney transplants are one of the most common transplant operations in this country and you don't have to travel far to have it performed by a team of specialists. The Avera Transplant Institute in Sioux Falls is the only facility in the region to offer bone barrow, kidney and pancreas transplants. We met two women from Northwest Iowa who were friends before surgery, but now share a special bond because one of them shared a kidney.
Loralie was diagnosed with lupus in the early 80's, by the early 90's the autoimmune disease had taken it's toll on her kidneys. She went on dialysis for a year then got a kidney from her brother in 1993.
Loralie says, "And for 10 years I had great health. But then they told me I needed another one because my kidney function is not cleaning the blood right."
And that's when her friend Shari came in to play. Her husband (Glen) received a kidney from his sister-in-law (Doris) 9 years ago and it saved his life.
Shari says, "At the time Loralie had her first transplant it never occurred to me. I thought you had to be related so when Doris was a match for my husband, I quickly learned. When Loralie needed another transplant I said let me be first on the list. I want to donate. Someone's blessed me with life and I want to help someone else."
For those of you at home thinking I can't possibly give an organ, I'm not strong enough to go through surgery. For Shari it was never a question of if she was going to give the gift of life, but when. She had a rough couple of days after surgery, but then it was literally like a walk in the park. Shari's one kidney is functioning as if she had two.
Dr. Robert Santella one of the physicians with the Avera McKennan Transplant Institute and Avera North Central Kidney Institute says, "One of the main advantages of having a living donor is not waiting long on the list. The average wait is 5 or more years.The problem is who person who has kidney failure will be on dialysis. The life expectancy is much less than a transplant and they may die waiting for a transplant. Patients do much better with a living donor. And the donor does very well because we can do the surgery laproscopically. They can be back at work within 2 to 3 weeks."
Loralie says, "I think of life as a miracle. In terms of these transplants, I think twice now I've really experienced a miracle. And not just sort of a miracle, a real miracle. When you go from feeling really pretty lousy to having surgery to waking up from surgery feeling good. I mean it's that dramatic.
This month (July 8th) the two celebrated the 5th anniversary of their surgeries at the Avera Transplant Institute, but they really celebrate everyday of good health and great friendship.