By creator to www.washingtonian.com
Monica Sakala and Jen Gallagher as youngsters. All images courtesy of Monica Sakala.
When Jen Gallagher, 46, of Blacksburg discovered she had polycystic kidney illness seven years in the past, her medical doctors at UVA Medical Heart stated she’d want a kidney transplant throughout the subsequent decade. Round Christmas of final 12 months, they advised her to begin in search of a donor.
And he or she discovered one in probably the most serendipitous of locations—her adoptive sister, Monica Sakala, 44, who lives in Kensington.
Gallagher was adopted by Sakala’s organic household when she was a child, and the household has two further organic daughters, Annie Riehl and Emily Gallagher. When Gallagher was identified with polycystic illness, a hereditary situation the place cysts develop on the kidneys and trigger them to close down, her adoptive father helped her observe down her start dad and mom. They found her organic father had the illness, and his mom had died from it.
When it got here time to start trying to find a transplant, Gallagher turned to Fb, outlining her request and sharing the method for folks to be evaluated as donors. She’d not too long ago change into engaged, she wrote within the submit, and was trying ahead to getting married and being a mom determine to her fiancé’s 4 boys. “Having one a part of my life come collectively as the opposite half begins to fail actually makes this a rollercoaster of a illness,” she wrote.
“To ask for assistance is a tough factor,” says Sakala of her sister. “To ask folks for an organ, I might think about, is a fair more durable factor.”
The submit was shared over 2,000 occasions, however after evaluating a number of candidates, Sakala was the one one left. The choice course of is multi-faceted: whereas blood kind is vital, it isn’t the last word deciding issue, she says. For instance, Gallagher is O adverse, whereas Sakala is O constructive, a distinction that may be solved partly by taking immunosuppressants, aka medicines that assist the physique not reject the brand new organ. “It’s much less about that than it’s about clearing the actually rigorous bodily means of evaluating your physique,” says Sakala.
Testing included issues like screening for diabetes and hypertension, ensuring candidates weren’t obese, and inspecting remedy histories. “It’s like probably the most spectacular bodily I might ever get,” says Sakala.
In one other twist of kismet, each Sakala and Gallagher can’t be blood donors. They traveled all over the world as youngsters for his or her father’s job as a diplomat, and their blood is in danger for carrying latent illnesses. “I don’t know if I might give a kidney to anybody aside from Jen,” says Sakala of the bizarre circumstances. “It’s actually cool—we prefer to say she’ll be like a organic Gallagher now with my kidney.”
Sakala believes destiny performed an enormous function on this course of. “If Jen hadn’t been adopted, I don’t know if my mother would have ever gone on and had three youngsters and made six kidneys,” she says. “And now one in every of them goes to [Jen].”
Whereas the transplant is taken into account a minimally invasive surgical procedure for Sakala, Gallagher should stay within the hospital whereas her medical doctors monitor how her physique is accepting the kidney. “I’m feeling good about it,” says Sakala. “I’m actually prepared to maneuver on and cross this one off the listing and hopefully discover Jen in higher well being.”
And, in a single closing sprinkling of serendipity, the surgical procedure will happen November 14. It is going to be Gallagher’s 47th birthday.