Sister comes to aid of Peters woman with life-saving kidney donation
By Tory N. Parrish
Published: Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
When a doctor told Geri Whalen in 2007 that she eventually would need a kidney transplant, she didn't have to look for a donor, she said. In fact, she didn't even have to ask for a donation, the Peters resident said.
Whalen's sister offered one of her kidneys.
“I was blessed with good health, and I just had a gut feeling that we would be a good match,” said Whalen's sister Dana Christner, 40, of Salisbury, N.C.
On Wednesday, about two months after Whalen was told by a doctor that she would need a transplant soon, Christner donated one of her kidneys to Whalen, 33, at UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland.
“There are no words for how that feels, just knowing that I wasn't going to have to wait five years. I wasn't going to have to get sicker and sicker and maybe get to the point where I wouldn't even be healthy enough to get the transplant because I'd waited so long,” Whalen said.
Whalen was diagnosed with Type I diabetes when she was 9, she said.
After the birth of her son in 2007, she learned she had developed kidney disease, said Whalen, who is married to Adam, 32. The couple are the parents of Eve, 9, Elle, 7, and Ian, 5.
After Whalen recovers from the kidney transplant, she will be added to a waiting list for a pancreas donation.
The average kidney transplant costs $250,000 and a pancreas transplant costs more than $285,000, according to the Memphis-based National Foundation for Transplants, a nonprofit that helps patients raise money to pay for medical expenses.
Whalen, who quit her job as a waitress in December, receives health insurance coverage through her husband's employer.
The foundation estimates that at least $25,000 will be needed to pay for expenses not covered by insurance after Whalen's transplants.
“So we're trying to raise as much money as possible so that we can cover the costs of both procedures,” said Whalen's sister, Jennifer LaBella, 37, of Hampton.
The foundation has set up a donation page for Whalen on its website, www.transplants.org, under the “Find or Become an NFT Patient” tab.
Also, the family is hosting a fundraiser at Del's Bar & Ristorante in Bloomfield on Jan. 24.
Christner hopes that publicizing her and her sister's experiences with a kidney transplant will help dispel myths about organ donation.
“Donors don't require dialysis after donations, and the hospital stay is 11⁄2 to two days and they get back to previous activity in several weeks,” said Dr. Amit D. Tevar, surgical director of kidney and pancreas transplantation at UPMC's Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute, Oakland. He was a member of the donor evaluation team and met Whalen and Christner.
Donors are evaluated carefully to make sure they do not stand a risk of kidney issues, he said. “Our goal is to make sure they are able to donate a kidney without any complications for the remainder of their life,” he said.
“We really want to encourage living organ donation because I've learned a lot through this process that I didn't know,” Christner said.
Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Young Achiever: Alexis Werner
- Dormont hands over management of pool
- Dormont business gaps traced
- Theraputic League teaches Western Pa. students value of sports beyond wins and losses
- Part of East Park Drive in South Park to close for month
- Project Prom allows Allegheny County teens to enjoy fancy night
- Organizations around Allegheny County offer more than fried fish during Lent