When Kimmy Davies got married, she asked Angie Ricci to be her maid of honor. The two were friends but there was another important reason Kimmy wanted Angie standing next to her when she tied the knot. She laughs when she explains why.
“In order for me to be one entire person at my wedding, I thought, ‘I’m gonna need my kidney,’ ” says Kimmy, a pharmacy buyer at WellSpan York Hospital and co-worker of Angie, a pharmacist.
Kimmy’s left kidney lives in Angie’s body. Kimmy donated the organ to Angie 16 years ago in 2006, through a living donor procedure at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Both were 30 years old at the time.
Angie says she and Kimmy have “a bond that is hard to describe. It’s amazing. I can’t thank her enough. And it’s funny because Kimmy says I changed her life more than she changed mine. I don’t know how that can be.”
“It has changed me in ways I never anticipated, in the appreciation for life I have now,” she says. “We all have days where things don’t go well. I have those days just like everyone else and then I go, ‘No, I think I’m OK with whatever just happened.’ I know those are just distractions from things that are truly important. What’s truly important is my friend Angie is still with us today.
“I don’t look at it like I deserve anything extra. I did what I did because I wanted to do it.”
Angie started having kidney problems when she was 19. Her grandmother died from kidney disease and her dad also had kidney disease, necessitating a transplant. By the early 2000s, as Angie felt a growing fatigue, doctors told her that she needed to consider her options regarding an organ transplant. They told her a living donation was the best opportunity because those types of transplants have fewer complications and offer a longer survival of the donor organ. Of course, the donor can live with one kidney, which still removes waste from the body.
Kidneys happen to be the highest need of organ recipients and are the most common living donation transplant that is performed. Living donors also can give parts of their lungs, liver, pancreas, and intestines to others. Nationally nearly 6,000 living donations take place every year, making up about 40 percent of all transplants.
But what to do next?
“I didn’t have a problem talking about my health but how do you start the conversation of, ‘I need a kidney, would you be willing to donate one?’ ” Angie says.
A former WellSpan co-worker of Kimmy and Angie volunteered to help get the conversation going. She told others of Angie’s need for a donor, referring them to Johns Hopkins for the next steps. The response was so great – ultimately between 20 and 30 co-workers and willing donors stepped up – that Hopkins started grouping potential donors in batches of five, to streamline the screening process.
Kimmy turned out to be the best match and did not hesitate to say she was in, even though she needed to undergo several months of further extensive screening that included blood sugar tests, MRIs, and psychological evaluations. “They want to make sure they will have two healthy people at the end,” Kimmy says. “For me, it was a no-brainer. If I matched, there wasn’t a question of whether I would do it or not.”
Since the transplant, Kimmy and Angie have remained close – staying in touch when Kimmy moved to Vermont for a time – but both say they are not necessarily best friends. Both are in good health – Angie is on anti-rejection drugs and hopes her donated kidney lasts for decades – and are glad for every day. Both get the simple enjoyment of knowing they share a bond that is very unusual and deep.
“My mom always sends us the exact same card on our transplant anniversary to remind us that we are truly blessed to have found each other and be in each other’s lives and to appreciate that,” Kimmy says. “We both do.”
Adds Angie, “She saved my life basically. That’s something that will never change.”
To learn more about being a living donor, go here or here (for Franklin County residents).