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Author Topic: Woman donates healthy kidney so her sister can receive organ from donor pool  (Read 3928 times)

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Offline Karol

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Woman donates healthy kidney so her sister can receive organ from donor pool


Jacqueline Blazaskie has been fighting kidney disease since she was a little girl. Luckily, she's had a lot of help along the way.

Mrs. Blazaskie of Peckville recently underwent her third kidney transplant at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Hospital. She's feeling well enough now, but as she takes time off from work to heal, medical and household bills have been piling up.

To help defray the costs associated with her recovery from surgery, Mrs. Blazaskie's family and friends - in particular, her sister, Chris Yusavage of Jessup - have organized a fundraiser on her behalf.

The Transplant for Jackie benefit will be held Saturday, June 11, starting at 6 p.m. in the basement of St. Thomas Aquinas Church at 411 Church St., Archbald. Admission is $10 and includes food and drinks. There also will be basket raffles, a 50/50 drawing and more. Donate Life America will be on hand with a table to educate people on organ donor awareness. More information on the event is available by calling 766-7450.

Give and receive

But planning a benefit isn't the only thing Mrs. Yusavage has done to help her sister recently. A few weeks ago, she, too, went under the knife at Geisinger, only Mrs. Yusavage was the one giving a kidney - to a complete stranger - so that her sister would be eligible to participate in a shared pool of donors.

Mrs. Yusavage's kidney went to a woman in Danville, and Mrs. Blazaskie's kidney came from a donor at Thomas Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia. Mrs. Blazaskie said that all she knows is that the woman who donated her kidney was likewise reciprocating and paying it forward for a transplant one of her family members had received.

"I wrote a thank-you note to her and if she wants to respond, she can," Mrs. Blazaskie said. "But it's anonymous."

"Sometimes there is a direct swap (between families), other times not so much," Mrs. Yusavage explained. "It doesn't matter where mine went, as long as (my sister) got one."

The program started as a way of growing the donation network between those in need and those willing to give. Mrs. Yusavage gave her kidney in kind because she was not a direct match for her sister, unlike their other sister, Kelly Marion, and their mother, Ann Marion, who each gave one to Mrs. Blazaskie 10 years ago.

Mrs. Blazaskie said she had one of her kidneys removed at the age of 6 due to numerous health problems, including kidney failure, congestive heart failure and bladder problems, and continued on medications as she grew up to stay as healthy as possible.

In her mid-twenties, the one kidney left began to fail.

The first kidney transplant - the one from her mother - only lasted for a day after surgical complications arose. At the time, the rest of the family underwent testing to find another match; Kelly was positive, but Mrs. Yusavage was not.

The good news was that Kelly's kidney lasted for 11 years until a new disease process was discovered during a routine checkup in 2004.

"It got progressively worse," Mrs. Blazaskie said. "That's the thing with kidney problems, you can be so stable and then bam, it just drops."

Transplant networking

About a year later, her health deteriorated further, and Mrs. Blazaskie realized she would have to start looking outside the family for a donor match. A medical technologist in the main laboratory at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Hospital, she decided to stay local for her surgery the third time around rather than travel back down to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where she had her first two transplants. Mrs. Blazaskie set up an appointment with Dr. Manish Gupta, a surgeon, and Dr. Chintalapati Varma, the director of transplantation surgery at Geisinger.

"They had started this exchange program where family members in the same situation as I, are put in the pool to see if they do match anyone else out there," Mrs. Blazaskie explained. "My sister really wanted to do this."

"They put her in the database, and found a match for her and a match for me within three months," she added. "They said I had a 6 percent chance, so they were pretty shocked they found matches."

Surgery was performed in April, and so far, both sisters are doing well. Though Mrs. Yusavage couldn't donate directly to her sister, she's happy with the results of the networking.

"There was no hesitation on my part," Mrs. Yusavage said earnestly. "This isn't something that's taken lightly. It's not just doctors and nurses (you're consulting with), it's caseworkers. They want to make sure you're comfortable with what you're doing.

"Unfortunately, from the beginning, I was never a match," she added. "But finally, there was a way to help. It's actually better this way, because now there's another woman out there who's better, too."

In the meantime, Mrs. Blazaskie's biggest worry has been money. She used all of her earned sick time prior to the surgery, and will not collect a paycheck until she returns to work part time in July. On top of that, she has had to pay for her health insurance out of pocket.

"It's hard," Mrs. Blazaskie admitted. "I was so worried about the surgery itself and the bills on top of that ... I was worried we'd be living in our car."

"We just couldn't see her losing her house over it. She's sick enough," Mrs. Yusavage added. With almost 200 tickets sold so far, the outlook is good.

"We'll take whatever we can get and be happy with it," Mrs. Yusavage said.

"My husband, Richard, is fantastic and takes good care of me, and my family ... I couldn't ask for more," Mrs. Blazaskie said. She also can't believe the outpouring from her nighbors and friends who have already shown support for her fundraiser.

"It's a small community and people really come together for this sort of thing," she said. "If it wasn't for these people, we'd be lost."

Mrs. Blazaskie plans to attend the benefit to greet and thank everyone in person, which will hopefully be the first step to a healthy new way of life.

"I can't wait to see what it's like to do things without feeling sick," she said.

Contact the writer: pwilding@timesshamrock.comIf you go

What: Transplant for Jackie benefit

When: Saturday, June 11, 6 p.m.

Where: St. Thomas Aquinas Church, 411 Church St., Archbald

Details: Admission is $10 and proceeds benefit kidney transplant patient Jacqueline Blazaskie. For information, call 766-7450. Contributions also can be made to "Transplant for Jackie" c/o 514 Burke Bypass, Olyphant, PA, 18447.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/lifestyles-people/jessup-woman-donates-healthy-kidney-so-her-sister-can-receive-organ-from-donor-pool-1.1156852#ixzz1ORDMsUQ8
Daughter Jenna is 31 years old and was on dialysis.
7/17 She received a kidney from a living donor.
Please email us: kidney4jenna@gmail.com
Facebook for Jenna: https://www.facebook.com/WantedKidneyDonor
~ We are forever grateful to her 1st donor Patrice, who gave her 7 years of health and freedom


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