• Cielo Vista

Woman Donates Kidney to Stranger in Need

November 26, 2004

AFTER complications this week, kidneytransplant patient Carlos Sánchez, 21,rejected the organ that a stranger, KatiaBrenes, 22, had donated to him last week.It may look like a cruel end to an otherwiseheartwarming story, but Brenes,though admittedly devastated, told TheTico Times she remains hopeful her giftwill inspire others to consider donating anorgan.Her generosity attracted Costa Rica’snews media, which featuredher story on TVand in newspapers.The day she heardof Sánchez’s urgentneed for a kidneythrough a mutual friend,Brenes decided todonate one of hers. Shemet Brenes the followingday and the twounderwent tests to determinewhether they werecompatible for an organdonation.They received newsof their compatibilityearly this month, and the two went intosurgery the morning of Nov. 17.THOUGH initially Sánchez wasrecovering well, Dr. Francisco José Mora,part of the surgical team at the CalderónGuardia Hospital in San José where theoperation was performed, said the patient’sbody began to reject the kidney. Doctorsstruggled to save it with drugs, but it waslost two days later.Brenes, who works as a maid inCartago, east of San José, said she is “completelydestroyed. Nobody knows the sadnessI feel.”The night before the operation she hadtold The Tico Times she believed the transplantwas an opportunity granted by God.This week, she said her faith has not beenshaken.“Before God, nothing is impossible,”she said. “I hope people who have seen thenews and who have interviewed me willconsider donating. I hope they’re unselfishand think about other people. You don’thave to have money or anything to help aperson who needs it.”SÁNCHEZ isnow awaiting anotherdonor, which couldcome along within amonth, Mora said. Heis again receivingdialysis treatmentsthree times per weekto clean his blood artificially,as he has forthe last eight months.“Things didn’twork out like wewanted, but I’m withoutwords to thank her for what she did,”Sánchez said. He joined Brenes in callingon others to donate organs and to take measuresto ensure needed organs will be usedafter a person dies.“It doesn’t make sense to let theworms eat your organs when they couldhelp others,” he said.Sánchez was diagnosed with a hereditary,congenital kidney disorder when hewas 2, and early this year his conditiondeteriorated dramatically. He developed acough, loss of appetite, loss of balance, andfinally, after a sharp pain, went to theCartago Hospital in April where he wastold he needed dialysis treatments.OUT of gratitude for Brenes’ gift,Sánchez’s sister, Rosibel, 22, told doctorsshe would donate a kidney to one of the120 patients waiting for transplants in thenation’s public hospitals. The donation ofRosibel’s organ could take place withinthree months, Mora said.People can lead normal, healthy liveswith one kidney, he said, and women whohave donated a kidney can safely have severalpregnancies. In his experience, however,the donation of a kidney to someonewho is not related to the donor, as inBrenes’ case, is extremely rare.The doctor said 65% of kidneys transplantedare taken posthumously, and 35%from living donors. Of those, only 5% aredonated to people who are not part of thedonor’s family.“It was an act of love and courage,” hesaid of Brenes’ decision.DOCTORS perform about eight to 10kidney transplants per month in CostaRica, according to statistics from theSocial Security System (Caja). Nearly 400have taken place in Calderón Guardia,where an average of two transplants permonth take place.Brenes asked people not to be afraid todonate an organ.“Do it with love,” she said, “for yourselfand for others, because you might needsomeone to do it for you or a loved onesomeday.’’For information on donating a kidneyor other organs, call the National OrganTransplant Commission at 257-1676.

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