There's a reason why, as a young teenager, Barbara Dohler befriended "the new
girl" in her neighborhood.

Bettyann Russell still remembers back to how nervous she was prior to
entering a new high school as a freshman in 1973. But luckily, Russell said,
Dohler took her under her wing and helped ease her worries of meeting people and
adapting to life in a new town.

The pair, now in their early 50s, remained close friends over their adult
years through lengthy Christmas letters each year and occasional phone

And a casual call between the friends this past Christmas led to
life-changing decisions for both women, said Dohler of Shrewsbury.

Dohler has battled polycystic kidney disease (PKD) since she was 38 years
old. Each night, the 53-year-old woman is required to undergo a nine-hour
dialysis treatment in her home. She said she's seen first-hand how the disease
affects one's body, as her father and grandmother both died of complications
from the kidney disease.

"I knew my functioning would decline to the point where I'd need dialysis.
But I really didn't think about it until about five years ago when I knew my
kidney functioning was declining," said Dohler.

About a year ago, Dohler said her doctor suggested she start seeking
potential kidney donors since her kidneys were failing and she was fatigued each

Shortly before the holidays, Russell asked Dohler about her health during a phone conversation.
While Dohler would typically reply that she was doing fine, she admitted that
time was running out before needing to begin dialysis because her first
potential donor was unable to follow through with testing for compatibility,
said Russell of Baltimore.

That's when, Russell said, she suggested she be tested to see if she could be
a kidney donor for her friend.

'So blessed': "I didn't want Barbara to miss out on the joy that I
have with my grandsons," said Russell, noting she needs a lot of energy to keep
up with the youngsters. "I've been so blessed, donating my kidney is my way to
thank God for the blessings in my life."

Russell said her entire family supported her decision to donate a kidney to
her childhood friend.

"There's a reason why Barbara befriended me and helped me through freshman
year of high school. That 1973 meeting was purposeful, she never asked me for a
kidney, I just felt it was my call to help her," said Russell, of Baltimore.

January's preliminary test proved the pair's kidneys were compatible, she
said. January and February were spent undergoing extensive medical physicals to
be sure that she was physically well enough to donate her kidney to Dohler.

Surgery Tuesday: After a few short months of preparing for the
transplant, the two will undergo the surgery Tuesday at Pinnacle Health's
Harrisburg Hospital.

Dohler, who enjoys traveling with her husband, Gary, of 33 years, said she
looks forward to being able to live an energetic life free of dialysis

"I feel very blessed and thankful. It's overwhelming that someone is willing
to do this for me," said Dohler.

As for now, Dohler said she's excited for the surgery and looks forward to
not having to worry about how her health will limit her interaction with her