An unusual 20th wedding anniversary gift
Scott and Cindy Chafian of Suffolk, Virginia, celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary in a most unusual way. They were both in Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, recovering from Scott's donation of a kidney to Cindy, which took place the day before their anniversary.
Cindy suffers from polycystic kidney disease, a hereditary condition which also ruined her mother's kidneys and her grandfather's. Cindy has been on dialysis for two years, exhausted most of the time and frustrated at the limits it placed on her quality of life.
"If I got dinner on the table for my family, that was a good day," Cindy says, "but that was the only thing that was going to happen."
Scott could see how waiting for a kidney donor was affecting Cindy and decided to be tested for compatibility as a living donor. To their surprise, he was a match.
"We literally get to open a new chapter in our life together, fresh and cleanly on our 20th anniversary," Scott says, "and there's something symbolic in that."
Scott learned a lot about living kidney donation during his journey. "Technology is opening windows of compatibility that weren't available when we were younger," he says. "I would tell anyone who is thinking about living donation to get tested. You might be a match for someone."
Beyond immediate friends and loved ones, Scott learned living donors can join donation 'rings' in which a donor gives a kidney to the first compatible recipient, anywhere, which allows the donor's intended recipient to receive the first kidney available from someone else.
"God bless the families who offer the kidneys of deceased donors," says John Colonna, M.D., Sentara Transplant Specialists. "But living donors help patients get off the waiting list, and off dialysis, a lot sooner." Also, Dr. Colonna adds that living donor kidneys last twice as long, on average, than those of deceased donors once they're implanted.
There are 106,000 patients waiting for donated kidneys across the U.S. and there are 22,000 kidney transplants performed each year. The program at Sentara Norfolk General hospital performs about 60 kidney transplants per year and has done 11 so far this month alone. The program also performs pancreas transplants and has done one of those since the beginning of 2017.
Cindy Chafian is looking forward to a new life off kidney dialysis.
"My husband will get his wife back and my children will get their mother back," Cindy says. "It's huge."