Kidney transplant with a Facebook assist

Social media connects NEPA kidney recipient with donor

MCADOO, SCHUYLKILL COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) - 20 people die each day waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. A Schuylkill County woman who was suffering from kidney failure feared she might never get the transplant she needed until fate stepped in.
The mom from McAdoo suffered from end-stage renal failure for nearly four years. She worried she might never see her two young daughters grow up. But as Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller explains, that all changed thanks to perseverance and some help from social media.

You wouldn't know it by looking at 33-year-old Kimberly Whittaker now, but the single mom was in a nearly four year fight for her life. The struggle started in April 2014 when she first thought she had the flu. "I started losing my vision. I just started throwing up and I was like there's something else wrong."

Her fear was soon realized when after several tests, doctors gave her a disturbing diagnosis. "My kidneys were completely shot and the only chance was dialysis and then a transplant."

Despite being put immediately on a national transplant waiting list, she waited three years for a call that didn't come. But last March, her luck was about to change. "I seen a thing on the tv where this lady was helping people to get donors for people."

That help was in the form of a Facebook page called Our Daddy Needs a Kidney-Team Callaway. The site connects kidney donors with people in need. Kimberly submitted a photo along with her back story. The post was shared more than 1,400 times. "And I had people calling Geisinger to be tested and that's when Kelly got called in."

28-year-old mother of three Kelly Petruskevich of Bumpass, Virginia saw Kimberly's post. She knew she shared the same blood type and proved to be a perfect match. Geisinger Transplant Surgeon Anil Kotru, MD performed the transplant surgery just two months ago. He considers Kimberly one of the lucky ones. "There are around 120,000 patients waiting for transplants and every day we lose around 20 patients on the wait list. 

Reached on Facebook live, Kelly shared a message of selflessness. "Anybody can do it. And it's a great thing to do, like, share your spare." It's a gift which Kimberly is grateful for every day. "It feels like my second chance at life. Honestly, that's how it feels."

It turns out Kelly is originally from Trevorton, Northumberland County but didn't know Kimberly. Both women are doing well and have become fast friends.

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