Once strangers, YNHHS employee, New Haven woman share a lifelong bond
YNHHS employee Mary Bailey (left) is doing great after receiving a kidney from Kim Rogers (right). The two were strangers until Joyce Albert, RN (center) of the Yale New Haven Transplantation Center, discovered Rogers was a match for Bailey.
Before last August, Mary Bailey and Kim Rogers had never met, but they had at least one important thing in common.
Bailey’s faith had helped her through a physical and emotional rollercoaster ride of a year, during which she struggled with kidney disease, then received the ultimate gift – twice.
Rogers’ faith had brought her to Yale New Haven Hospital’s Center for Living Organ Donors, intending to donate a kidney to a fellow member of the Catholic Charity League of New Haven.
The story that brought these two strangers together began in August 2012, when routine testing showed that Bailey had kidney disease.
“I asked my doctor, ‘What can we do to fix this?’ recalled Bailey, a receivable integrity specialist in Yale New Haven Health’s System Business Office. “He said, ‘You can’t fix it.’”
Bailey lived for six years with gradually diminishing kidney function, but felt fine and didn’t need dialysis. Last January, with her kidney function at 20 percent, Bailey needed a transplant. Luckily, her youngest sister was a match. On March 27, 2018, surgeons with the Yale New Haven Transplantation Center transplanted the new kidney into Bailey. All seemed well until after Bailey’s hospital discharge, when she experienced worsening pain and nausea. Doctors discovered blood clots on her new kidney and had to remove it.
“I was devastated,” Bailey said. “But I hurt more for my sister than myself. She had been so generous to give me a kidney.”
Bailey began dialysis – four hours a day, three days a week. Dialysis didn’t bother her, she said, because “I had faith I was going to get a new kidney soon.” During all of this, Rogers had undergone the extensive testing required for potential organ donors. She wasn’t a match for her intended recipient, who ended up finding another donor. But Joyce Albert, RN, YNHH senior transplant coordinator and living kidney donor coordinator, had talked to Rogers about potentially donating her kidney to someone she didn’t know. The donor and recipient matching system revealed that Rogers and Bailey were a possible match.
“That made me think, did I want do this because someone I know needed a kidney, or because it needs to be done?” said Rogers, a library media specialist and technology teacher at Edgewood and Barnard schools in New Haven.
There clearly is a need. More than 101,000 Americans are on the waiting list for a lifesaving kidney transplant, yet only 17,000 people receive one each year. “Historically, we’ve relied on deceased organ donors, but while the number of these donations has remained stagnant, the number of people who need organs has been growing,” said Sanjay Kulkarni, MD, transplant surgeon and Center for Living Organ Donors medical director.
Despite this need, Rogers said she felt no pressure from Center staff.
“I felt like my advocacy team at the Center was there for me,” she said. “They really thought about what’s right for me. I knew I could always opt out.” But after talking with her husband, Michael, and other family members, Rogers decided to give her kidney to Bailey. On Aug. 2, 2018, Dr. Kulkarni and transplant surgeon Ramesh K. Batra, MD, performed the surgery. The two women met the next day.
“Talking to her – it was a magical moment,” Bailey said.
“I was so humbled by the fact that Mary’s life had been so full of challenges, and yet she was living it to the fullest,” Rogers said.
During her six-week recovery, Rogers had to avoid heavy lifting and strenuous activities, but she experienced no pain and is now fully recovered. She has “no regrets” about her decision and doesn’t miss her kidney, she said.
Bailey has had some infections since the surgery, but said it’s all been worth it.
“I feel wonderful,” she said.
In 2017, living donors nationwide made more than 6,000 kidney and liver transplants possible. Rogers challenges others to consider giving someone else
– family member, friend or stranger – that ultimate gift.
“You only go through life once, and so does everyone else,” she said. “Whatever you can do to make others’ lives better, you should do it.”
To learn more about organ donation and transplantation, visit the Yale New Haven Transplantation Center or call 866-925-3897.