Nurse becomes her mother’s living organ donor — twice


Marzena Stasieluk needs a new kidney. She was diagnosed with kidney disease in 2015 and eventually needed dialysis, a painstaking process in which machines do what her kidneys can no longer do.

But in order for the kidney transplant to be successful, she first needed a liver. Stasieluk’s liver disease, which had been under control for more than a decade, worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic. Her family said it wasn’t too bad for her to give priority to a deceased donor’s liver, but a kidney transplant might not be an option.

Marzena’s daughter, Jennifer Stasieluk, is a nurse who has been caring for patients through the toughest of times, during Covid-19 and cancer. She was willing, even eager, to give her mother a kidney. They’ve done all the scanning and testing, to no avail.

Although they share the same blood type, her mother belongs to a subset of patients known as “highly sensitive.” Marzena has a high number of antibodies against foreign tissue—a factor that increases the likelihood of organ rejection and makes finding a match more difficult.

“She needed a new liver for the kidney transplant. However, her liver wasn’t sick enough by itself,” recalls Jennifer, 29. “So, they’re kind of, like, hands up, just, kind of, like, ‘Sorry.'”

In January 2020, an appointment with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, introduced a new idea: Doctors advised Marzena to obtain a portion of his liver from a living donor.

Marzena Stasieluk suffers from both liver disease and kidney failure.

Jennifer insisted that she get tested. Despite her mother’s objections, she wouldn’t say no. And this time, the response was good.

“In the morning, when I got the call that I was the match, I kicked her door open. I said, ‘Mom, I’m worthy, pack my bags, have surgery in six weeks. “We couldn’t believe I was a match,” Jennifer said.

On June 25, 2021, Jennifer gave her mother a lobe of liver. Jennifer spent five days in hospital recovering and Mazena spent 11 days in hospital. For living donors and recipients, the liver has the unique ability to regenerate within weeks, and the mother and daughter recovered uneventfully.

But Mazena, affectionately known as the “professional grandmother,” had to go on dialysis, despairing of a normal life.

“It’s horrible. You sit there for more than three hours three days a week,” said Mazener, who lives in Illinois. “My kids and my grandkids are the whole world and that’s why I’ve fought for so long. I don’t want them, my kids and my grandkids to lose me.”

After the liver transplant, Jennifer was ready to donate her kidney to a stranger as part of a matched donation — a process in which a living donor’s kidney is exchanged so that recipients like Marzena get compatible organs.

Jennifer had another round of blood work and tests in preparation for kidney donation. But then came the surprise: Jennifer was now able to give her mother a kidney transplant because of the effect her liver had on her mother’s immune system.

“We never thought in a million years that I would be a straight match,” Jennifer said. “I’m excited about it. I’m not nervous. I know I’m well taken care of.

“I gave her my larger lobe on June 25, 2021. A year later, I gave her a kidney.”

Jennifer Stasieluk (left) with her mother Marzena Stasieluk.

Dr. Timucin Taner, chief of transplant surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, performed the liver transplant on the Stasieluks.

He and his colleagues have been studying the effects of liver transplantation on the immune system, including studying how performing a liver transplant before a heart transplant — rather than the typical sequence — reduces organ rejection.

Taner said the Stasieluks are the first case where their knowledge of the liver’s effect on the patient’s immune response allowed for a subsequent kidney transplant from the same donor. They intend to write a case report on these procedures.

“She donates two organs a year to the same person,” Tanner said of Jennifer. “So she saved her mother’s life twice.”

Organ donors, living and deceased, are heroes, Taner said. There simply aren’t enough organs for everyone who needs one.

Nationwide, there are nearly 106,000 people on the national transplant waiting list, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. So far this year, nearly 40,000 transplants have been performed.

“On average, there are usually about 25,000 people on the waiting list in the United States for a liver transplant,” Taner said. “Of those, we can only transplant about 9,000 at most every year because that’s just the number of livers we have.

Jennifer described working long hours as a nurse at the height of the pandemic, working night shifts to help patients and their families. In dark days, answers are few and hope sometimes hard to find.

“Losing a patient to Covid is devastating. I feel so helpless,” Jennifer said.

But donating organs to her mother twice has empowered her.

Jennifer said, “Just knowing that I can do something is not hopeless… Just having that power and I can actually do something to help her and save her life is amazing.”

It will be the first Christmas in seven years and Marzena feels healthy. Jennifer said it was more special than any holiday ever.

Marzena said her daughter’s gift changed her life.

“Today, I’m grateful. I don’t think I can ever say enough, thank you,” Mazena said, fighting back tears. “What do you think of a guy who donated two organs instead of one?”

Source link