Judy Wittenberg recalls clearly what her doctor said on the day she had surgery that would allow her to donate a kidney to her older brother, Jeff Wittenberg.
"He told me, 'Judy, you are the only person checking in to the hospital today who doesn't really need to be here. What you are doing is a great gift. It is my responsibility to make sure you leave here just as healthy as when you arrived,'" she says.
The transplant surgery was on June 15, 2009. By the next morning, "I had my feet on the floor and was walking around," she says. Since then, "I have had no indication whatsoever that I have one kidney. I have no restrictions, and my health didn't change at all."
But Jeff's health changed dramatically. That was apparent the moment he woke up after the surgery. "I could tell even in the recovery room that I was feeling more alert," he says.
Amazingly, Jeff's kidney function is better with the one transplanted kidney than it had been with his own two kidneys. Both Jeff and Judy say that the care and attentiveness they received through Abbott Northwestern's Transplant Program helped them prepare for and feel confident about the transplant.
"They did a fabulous job on the preparation and education," says Jeff.
Jeff will need medications for the rest of his life, but the number of pills he takes has decreased as his body adjusted to the new kidney. The near-perfect match with his sister's kidney has aided Jeff's recovery. Having a kidney from a living donor also contributes to a successful transplant.
Jeff and Judy both say that it's important for people to consider being an organ donor. "My sister stepped right up and volunteered to do this for me. A lot of people who need kidney transplants have to wait a very long time. I didn't have to worry about any of that," says Jeff.
"As a donor, I can say that this is one of the most amazing things I've ever done. It feels so deeply gratifying to be able to help someone like this," says Judy.
For more information on the donation process, visit LifeSource.