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Family seeking the miracle of a living donor

Nicole Petrosky is on the national waiting list for a kidney transplant.

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Living donations

Dr. Amit D Tevar, a transplant surgeon at UPMC, said there are many factors to consider for both the recipient and the donor who is giving a kidney to transplant.

He said most donors are either blood-related or emotionally related, such as a spouse, friend or co-worker.

The donor undergoes an extensive screening process to ensure the absence of diabetes, substance abuse problems or other medical issues.

The donor, who cannot be obese, has the kidney removed during laparoscopic surgery that generally requires a day-and-a-half stay in the hospital.

“The key thing is to be healthy going in and back to 100 percent fairly quickly — usually four to six weeks,” Tevar said. “It's a very important process to encourage a safe operation for both the donor and the recipient and get everyone back to full capacity as quickly as possible.”

For more information, contact Maureen Vekasky, transplant coordinator for UPMC, at 412-647-5512 or

To view videos from people who have undergone a living kidney donation, go to the National Kidney Foundation's website at

By Michele Stewardson
Thursday, April 10, 2014, 8:55 p.m.

For most families, the need for a liver or kidney transplant never comes.

For the Petrosky family, that need has come three times.

Lori Petrosky, 62, underwent a liver transplant in 2011. It was her second.

Her daughter Nicole, 35, has end-stage kidney disease and needs a transplant. Her family is seeking the miracle of a living donor.

“Through my first and second transplant, there was a saint that I prayed to and I believe he wanted to make sure that I lived and the reason, I know now, is to help my daughter,” Lori Petrosky said. “I understand with a mother's love, but also from experience.”

The family is devoted to Saint Pio of Pietrelcina and has visited his grave in Italy.

Among the many who have turned to the Capuchin Franciscan to intercede with God on their behalf was the man who would become Pope John Paul II, according to In 1962, when the late pope was an archbishop in Poland, he wrote to Padre Pio and asked him to pray for a Polish woman with throat cancer. Within two weeks, she was cured.

“We are praying he intervenes for Nicole and hopefully by getting the word out that will happen,” said Lori Petrosky. “It will happen. It's just a matter of time.”

Nicole, whose family and friends are not a healthy match for donation, is on the waiting list maintained by the United Network for Organ Sharing, a private nonprofit that manages the nation's organ transplant system under contract with the federal government.

Her father, Frank Petrosky, said it could take three to five years on the waiting list, so the family is actively searching for a healthy donor willing to donate a kidney. He and his wife own New Image Hair Clinic in Irwin and Harrisburg.

Nicole, a 1996 graduate of Shadyside Academy who lives in Washington, D.C., was diagnosed in 2012 after the family returned from a Christmas vacation to Poland. Nicole was tired all the time and “just not herself,” she said. Upon her return, she ended up in the hospital, where she learned her kidneys were failing.

“Then it all made her sense,” her mother said. “She probably had this for years. In 2008, she was in the hospital with pneumonia, and heavy doses of antibiotics are said to be a cause for kidney failure.”

Nicole, an avid animal lover, has not been able to enjoy her role as ambassador for the National Zoo in Washington or her volunteer work with the Cheetah Conservation Fund. Her life's ambition is to help endangered animals, particularly cheetahs. She knows exactly what she wants to do when a transplant restores her health: “Go to Africa.”

Nicole said she is grateful for the support she receives. Her husband, De Margo Hopson, “understands the nutrition aspect of kidney disease and makes sure I eat the right foods,” she said.

Michele Stewardson is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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