In an extraordinary act of generosity, Terri Thede decided to donate one of her kidneys to a Loyola Medicine transplant patient she had never met.
“This lady is going to heaven,” said William Parra, who received Ms. Thede’s kidney.
Ms. Thede’s altruism jump-started a living-donor kidney exchange that enabled two other Loyola patients to also receive lifesaving kidney transplants.
Mr. Parra’s wife, Paula, would have donated a kidney to her husband, but they didn’t match. Instead she paid it forward by donating a kidney to a patient she did match, Vitalii Stasiuk. Mr. Stasiuk’s mother, Svitlana Gotska then paid it forward by donating a kidney to Irene Zapata.
The three transplants were performed simultaneously August 10, 2017, at Loyola University Medical Center. The paired exchange was coordinated by Amishi Desai, DO, medical director of kidney transplant, and Raquel Garcia Roca, MD, surgical director of kidney transplant.
Nearly 100,000 people are on the kidney transplant waiting list. Patients can wait five years or longer for an organ from a deceased donor. Patients can avoid the long wait by getting kidneys from living donors, who can lead a normal life with one remaining kidney.
Some patients have friends or family members who are willing to donate but may not be a good match. Kidney exchanges solve that problem by connecting willing donors to matching patients. In Loyola’s case, the kidney exchange was started by Ms. Thede, the altruistic donor.
Ms. Thede, who lives in Normal, Illinois, first considered donating a kidney after reading about a boy who needed a transplant. When the boy wound up getting a kidney from a deceased donor, Ms. Thede still wanted to help. So she called Loyola’s living donor program and offered to donate to any patient who matched.
Ms. Thede said she knew the enormous difference a kidney transplant can make to a patient who otherwise would have to be on dialysis. “If I could change one person’s life, I felt it was very important to do so,” she said. “I was between jobs, so I had the time. It was kind of a no-brainer for me.”