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Allison Park man's generosity starts chain of lifesaving kidney donations

Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review - Kidney donors and recipients — Allison Zacharias (from left) of Wellsville, Ohio, Branden Conley of Beaver Falls, Andrew Rose of Allison Park, Eric Welch of Wellsville, Ohio, and Brooke Conley of Beaver Falls — catch up on Tuesday, June 4, 2013, outside UPMC Montefiore Hospital in Oakland. Rose donated the first kidney to Welch; Welch’s sister, Allison, in turn donated a kidney to Brooke Conley, whose husband, Branden, donated a kidney to James Weiss of Erie (not pictured). Then, two others joined the chain: Jeannette Muhl (Weiss’ aunt) of Allison Park donated to Louis Sorbo of New Castle. The transplant chain took place in April, and everyone involved seems to be doing fine.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Heidi Murrin  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Kidney donors and recipients — Allison Zacharias (from left) of Wellsville, Ohio, Branden Conley of Beaver Falls, Andrew Rose of Allison Park, Eric Welch of Wellsville, Ohio, and Brooke Conley of Beaver Falls — catch up on Tuesday, June 4, 2013, outside UPMC Montefiore Hospital in Oakland. Rose donated the first kidney to Welch; Welch’s sister, Allison, in turn donated a kidney to Brooke Conley, whose husband, Branden, donated a kidney to James Weiss of Erie (not pictured). Then, two others joined the chain: Jeannette Muhl (Weiss’ aunt) of Allison Park donated to Louis Sorbo of New Castle. The transplant chain took place in April, and everyone involved seems to be doing fine.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review - Andrew Rose (facing) of Allison Park and Eric Welch of Wellsville, Ohio meet for the first time at UPMC Montefiore Hospital in Oakland Tuesday, June 4, 2013. Andrew donated one of his kidneys to Eric in April of this year. This set off a series of live-donor kidney transplants with four people total receiving a kidney. 'When I woke up I felt like a million bucks', said Eric.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Heidi Murrin  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Andrew Rose (facing) of Allison Park and Eric Welch of Wellsville, Ohio meet for the first time at UPMC Montefiore Hospital in Oakland Tuesday, June 4, 2013.  Andrew donated one of his kidneys to Eric in April of this year.  This set off a series of live-donor kidney transplants with four people total receiving a kidney. 'When I woke up I felt like a million bucks', said Eric.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

Andrew Rose wanted nothing in return for one of his healthy kidneys.

“I was looking online and saw how bad it can get for some people who are sick,” said Rose, 28, of Allison Park. “I have more reasons to donate than not to.”

His decision to donate a kidney to a stranger triggered a live-donor kidney exchange that enabled four people to get kidney transplants at UPMC.

The four Western Pennsylvania residents had identified relatives or friends willing to donate kidneys but with incompatible blood types or antibodies. The prospective donors remained committed to surgery if their loved ones could get compatible organs from others.

The four donors and four recipients met Rose on Tuesday at UPMC Montefiore in Oakland, seven weeks after the April surgeries. They exchanged hugs and promised to take care of themselves.

“Thank you,” Eric Welch, 37, of Wellsville, Ohio, told Rose as they embraced. Welch, whose kidneys were sickened by type 1 diabetes, got Rose's kidney.

Welch's sister, Allison Zacharias, donated a kidney to Brooke Conley of Beaver Falls.

“Two months ago, I was dying, and now I'm fine,” said Conley, 32. “I can't put it into words.”

The chains, called live-donor exchanges, have become more common in the past several years because roughly a third of people who identify willing kidney donors aren't compatible with them.

The surgeries are relatively safe, and donors typically go home in two days, said Dr. Amit Tevar, surgical director of kidney and pancreas transplant at UPMC. The exchanges generate extra emotion when an altruistic donor such as Rose steps up, he said.

“It still moves me every time I see it,” Tevar said. “Here you have someone who, from the bottom of their heart, just purely wants to do something to help their fellow man. There's no gain for him, just to help out. It's really remarkable.”

Altruistic donors such as Rose are unusual but not unheard of, according to United Network for Organ Sharing, the nonprofit that manages the nation's organ transplant system for the government. In 2012, there were 161 such donors, according to the network.

Luis Fábregas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7998 or lfabregas@tribweb.com.

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