That was not the case for Barbara Dohler, 53, of Shrewsbury.
At least not until Tuesday morning, when she received a kidney transplant
from a lifelong friend, Bettyann Russell, 52, of Baltimore. Russell had jumped
at the opportunity to be tested as a possible donor when she learned that
another donor had backed out.
Dohler's kidney had grown to about 5 pounds before being removed at Pinnacle
Health-Harrisburg Hospital. Dohler had Polycystic Kidney Disease, a genetic
disorder characterized by multiple cysts on the kidneys.
It affects about 500,000 people in the United States and has been found in at
least four generations of her family on her father's side.
Her grandfather, both uncles, her father and her sister have also battled the
Dohler said she was diagnosed at age 38.
"I wasn't surprised," she said. "I knew I had it when I started to get kidney
Tuesday was not only memorable because of her surgery, but it also marked the
seventh anniversary of her father's death, which was brought on from to
complications related to the disease.
"We watched her father being taken to dialysis three times a week," said
Russell's husband, Gary.
Throughout all of this, Dohler had kept in contact with Russell, who she met
in high school.
"We became fast friends," Dohler said.
Russell served as one of the bridesmaids at her wedding.
As they began their new lives, they kept in close contact through letters and
phone calls.
"This past December (Bettyann) inquired about (my disease) over the phone,"
Dohler said. "When I told her the time was getting close when I'd need a
transplant -- and the original donor fell through -- she asked right away, 'How
do I get tested?'"
From there, Russell was tested and found that her kidneys were compatible.
Dohler considers herself lucky. Of the 86,000 men and women on the waiting
list to receive a kidney, statistics show that fewer than one in seven will
receive an organ donation, according to the Living Kidney Donor Network.
"I'm extremely thankful that Bettyann has been doing this with me. I'm very
blessed," Dohler said.
The two women and their families arrived at the hospital for surgery at 5:30
a.m. Tuesday. Both were in good condition following the procedure. If there are
no complications, Russell is expected to be released Thursday and Dohler on
Saturday or Sunday.

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