Share This Page

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

| Wednesday, June 5, 2013, 8:02 a.m.
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.
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.

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.

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.