By Terry Rogers
Six months ago, Nadine Holleger was placed on the organ donor recipient list after developing full kidney failure due to a genetic disease she and two of her sisters inherited from their father. Mrs. Holleger and her sisters have polycystic kidney disease, which causes many cysts to form in the kidneys causing them to enlarge. Because of her rare blood type, Mrs. Holleger was told that she could wait as many as 15 years for a donor.
However, on Wednesday, June 12, Mrs. Holleger received a new kidney through a program known as the Paired Kidney Exchange Program, which allows a “kidney swap” among different donors when a living donor’s kidney is incompatible with the patient in need. Mrs. Holleger had a living donor, Leia Dypsky, who was willing to donate a kidney, but was incompatible with Mrs. Holleger. The Paired Kidney Exchange Program helped identify another donor/recipient pair with the same problem and the kidneys were “swapped” among patients. Mrs. Holleger and Mrs. Dypsky were matched to a donor/recipient in California.
“She is my angel,” Mrs. Holleger said about Mrs. Dypsky. “There is no way that thanks will ever be enough for what she has done for me, and for what the person I don’t even know has done. I will forever be grateful.”
Mrs. Holleger and Mrs. Dypsky both underwent surgery on Wednesday, with Mrs. Holleger’s beginning at just after 9 am. The doctor informed Mrs. Holleger’s husband, Dean, at around lunchtime, that her kidneys weighed about five pounds each, and he described them as “something out of a sci-fi movie.” Since one of the veins in the replacement kidney was too small, because it only fed 10 percent of the kidney function, doctors were able to remove a vein from Mrs. Holleger’s leg and replace the kidney vein. Although the kidney had been cold for some time, which sometimes causes it to be slow in functioning, the doctor said that the new kidney in Mrs. Holleger began working immediately.
“Nadine has decided to name her new kidney ‘Calli’ since it came from California,” Mr. Holleger wrote on his wife’s Facebook page after surgery was completed. “She will come home in about a week, while Leia will return home in a day or so.” Mr. Holleger thanked all of those who kept he, his wife and their son, Austin, who graduated from Milford High School in May, in their thoughts throughout the ordeal.
Mrs. Holleger continues to improve, but must be extremely careful of infection as even a minor infection could cause “Calli” to reject. She will need to take anti-rejection medications for the rest of her life, which will further compromise her immune system. Although she is in pain, the doctors are pleased with her progress. The Holleger’s did receive news that Mrs. Dypsky’s kidney made it to California and that her recipient is doing well. Although they do not have contact information regarding the recipient and donor in California, they hope to get that soon.
“We met one of the doctors here this morning who was also a kidney transplant recipient at the age of 11,” Mr. Holleger said. “She is also nine months pregnant, so it shows you can return to a somewhat normal life after transplant.”
There are more than 60,000 patients awaiting kidney transplants, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Sadly, approximately 3,000 of those on the waiting list die because suitable organs cannot be found in time. According to the Johns Hopkins University Comprehensive Transplant Center, who performed their first paired kidney exchange in 2001, a national program would allow transplants for about half the 6,000 patients yearly who have willing donors with incompatible kidneys.