Thursday, July 15, 2010

Canadian mother donates kidney to casual acquaintance

Thornhill, Ontario single mom of three teenagers donates kidney and now advocates for organ donation

Giving a gift for life. Kathy Laszlo (right) donated a kidney to Terri Quint last month. Ms Laszlo is back at work and feeling fine and wants everyone to consider donating to help others. Staff Photo/Steve Somerville

By Ken Zarzour

Robyn Quint hung up the phone and turned to her husband.
“Kathy says we can have her kidney.”

“You’re joking,” Saul said, turning to her in shock.

“No, she’s serious. She says we can have it if we want it.”

And that’s how it went down — as casually as if Kathy Laszlo were offering her neighbor a cup of sugar.

The Quint family of Thornhill had struggled through a nightmarish few months.

Their developmentally disabled teenaged daughter, Terri, had experienced kidney failure and was attached to a home dialysis machine for eight hours a day, six days a week.

Robyn and Saul ran the machine at night; the parents did not sleep and their other children coped as best they could.

It would be like this for the rest of Terri’s life, doctors said, if they could not find a donor, and finding a match was proving impossible.

Despite their large and willing families, not one relative was eligible.

So, the offer from a casual acquaintance — who was herself a single mom of three teenagers, one of whom also had special needs — seemed like manna from heaven.

“My husband got on the phone and kept thanking her, over and over,” Ms Quint said.

“And then I told him, enough thanking, let’s get to work,” Ms Laszlo added with a laugh.

Now, just two weeks after the life-saving transplant, Ms Laszlo and Terri sit together on Ms Laszlo’s family room couch in Thornhill, looking the picture of health.

Ms Laszlo is back at work and her lifestyle back to normal, despite the missing kidney.
And while she makes the whole process sound like a piece of cake, it wasn’t exactly.

The first hurdle was persuading the hospital to schedule the surgery at the end of June when her disabled son would be taken care of in camp.

The second involved a battery of tests to ensure she was qualified to donate.

“I was extremely worried that, for some small reason, they would rule me out,” she said.
There were even mental health tests, “so now my kids can’t call me crazy anymore,” she said with a laugh.

“They said I’m sane and I’ve got the papers to prove it,” she added.

“Kathy has been unwavering,” Robyn Quint said looking to her friend with fondness.

Before they took their relationship to this whole new level, they were both simply carpooling moms whose disabled children took part in the same community activities.

The transplant was scheduled for Toronto General Hospital June 25.

Ms Laszlo rested in the pre-op room and marvelled to her teens that she felt so calm.

Trips to the dentist caused her more nerves than this.

After two hours, she awoke from the anaesthetic, the kidney removal complete.

“How’s Terri? And who won the game?” were her first words.

Brazil and Portugal were going head-to-head at the World Cup in South Africa.

It was a good game.

Ms Laszlo, who runs a charity called DANI, which helps find employment and runs social programs for young adults and teenagers with special needs, said she feels as if she has used Toronto General to give life twice — first, when she gave birth to her children, and now, she’s given life again.

It’s a little strange, knowing part of her body is working hard in this young girl’s, but Ms Laszlo feels no pain or after-effects.

It takes three days for one kidney to take over 75 per cent of the function of the missing kidney, she said adding 100 per cent function was not necessary.

“There’s a saying God gave us two kidneys to give one away,” she said.

“If it were my child, God forbid, I would move heaven and earth to find a donor to save him.”

Since then, Terri has been in great health and spirits and, while she can’t verbalize it, she seems aware that her friend’s mom has given her a very special gift.

And Ms Laszlo is telling everyone who will listen about her experience with living organ donation.

“It’s not like I’m waiting for a hero’s welcome,” she said. “I just want people to know how important it is to go on a donor list, even if it’s just to sign the donor card on your driver’s licence.”

She points to her next door neighbour’s cousin, waiting desperately for a donation and “getting sicker and sicker by the minute. There comes a time when you’re too sick to do it anymore. There’s a time limit.”

“People think it’s a life-changing experience to donate an organ, but I’m still able to live the same life, eat the same food, do the same exercise.

“It’s not such a big deal, physically speaking, a couple of weeks of your life, to give another person a chance at life.”

Notes: Living Donor Paired Exchange Programs have been established to match up donors with recipients who are of compatible blood types. For more info go to the following links:
Canada: Living Donor Paired Exchange Registry
United States:

“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Register to be an organ and tissue donor & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”
Register to be a donor in Ontario or Download Donor Cards from Trillium Gift of Life Network. NEW for Ontario: - Learn The Ins & Outs Of Organ And Tissue Donation. Register Today! For other Canadian provinces click here
In the United States, be sure to find out how to register in your state at or Download Donor Cards from OrganDonor.Gov
In Great Britain, register at NHS Organ Donor Register
In Australia, register at Australian Organ Donor Register
Your generosity can save up to eight lives with heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and small intestine transplants (see allotransplantation). One tissue donor can help 75 to 100 other people by donating skin, corneas, bone, tendon, ligaments and heart valves

Has your life been saved by an organ transplant? "Pay it forward" and help spread the word about the need for organ donation - In the U.S. another person is added to the national transplant waiting list every 11 minutes and 18 people die each day waiting for an organ or tissue transplant. Organs can save lives, corneas renew vision, and tissue may help to restore someone's ability to walk, run or move freely without pain. Life Begins with You

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