A Long Island art teacher and physical therapist both went into kidney failure and were looking at a six to eight year wait for new organs, until their friends stepped up to the plate.
Kathleen Gerlach, 68, went into kidney failure at the age of eighteen, after a severe case of strep throat damaged both organs.
For a year-and-a-half, Gerlach endured dialysis treatments multiple times a week, while she attended college classes.
“The toxins build up in your body and your coloring’s not good. Your blood is not good. You have no energy,” she said about how she felt physically during the waiting period. “It was really, really difficult.”
When she was twenty years old, she received a new kidney from a deceased organ donor, which gave her the chance to graduate college and become a high school art teacher.
Decades later, the transplanted kidney began to fail and she was forced to go back on dialysis while awaiting a new organ, which could take up to a decade to obtain.
Physical therapist assistant John Primavera, 49, was in the same boat. He was born with a kidney condition that caused the organs not to grow along with his body, and got his first transplant at the age of 14.
After 35 years, the donated kidney began to fail, and Primavera was forced to stop working, when he became too weak due to the dialysis treatments, which have a 50% mortality rate after five years.
Luckily for Gerlach and Primavera, they each had a friend that was willing to sacrifice a kidney to save their lives.
For Gerlach, that person was a co-worker at the the Long Island high school she taught at. Instead of languishing for more than half-a-decade on dialysis, the selfless act meant she got a new kidney in less than a year, and was able to keep teaching.
Primavera’s living donor came in the form of his best friend Tom Kenny, who he has known since they were both 9-years-old, and turned out to be a perfect donor.
“The surgeons said it could not be a better match. It was such a good match, it was as if we were brothers,” he told Fox News Digital after their recent surgery.
He reported that they were “both doing well” and that he has a second chance at life because of Tom, who he is “forever grateful to.”
“Without this selfless act, I would have waited close to seven years for a kidney and would have had to be on dialysis. With that wait time, I might not have made it to get transplanted,” Primavera said.
“I have a new lease on life — a life free from dialysis. I can enjoy traveling again,” he detailed. “I will be able to enjoy life to the fullest and see my daughter Soraya continue to mature and reach all her milestones.”
Ticia Hanisch, 76, a cancer survivor, recently was delighted to meet her donor this week.
Hanisch fell ill with acute myeloid leukemia in 2018, and her only chance at living was a stem cell transplant.
Her doctors in Houston, Texas, enrolled her in a global donor registry, and she was miraculously able to hang on for a year until she was matched with an anonymous donor in Europe.
Dominik Brandenburg was expecting a baby with his heavily pregnant girlfriend, but traveled to Cologne, Germany, in 2019 to donate to Hanisch, who he did not know.
The two corresponded anonymously for two years, as was required by the rules of the donor registry, and were finally able to meet this week, when Brandenburg traveled to Texas.
“My heart was pumping,” he said about finally seeing Hanisch in person. “I was so excited to meet her.”
“The gratitude is incredible,” she remarked. “When we met in person, that feeling was magnified.”