Living organ donation saved my mom’s life

Valentine’s Day, and every day for that matter, is the perfect day to register as an organ, eye and tissue donor. What a better way to express love than to commit to saving and healing lives by joining the donor registry? Just one donor can save up to eight lives through organ donation, and save or heal more than 75 lives through eye and tissue donation.

Organ donation is something that has recently affected my family in a wonderful way! In 2009, my mom was diagnosed with a type of kidney disease. It is an incredibly long name that I can’t spell nor remember anymore. We were told that there wasn’t a way to find out what causes it and there is no cure. Her kidneys were functioning at 10 percent. After many tests and procedures, she was told she would have to start dialysis and was put on the transplant list.

She began dialysis in April 2013. Three days a week she would get up and be at the dialysis center in Streator by 5:30 a.m. and would have to sit there hooked up to a machine for four hours while the process was completed. Can you imagine that? Sitting in a chair for four hours a day, three days a week. That is 12 hours a week, 624 hours a year! My mom completed her dialysis treatment on December 10, 2016. So for a total of about 189 weeks at 12 hours a week, my mom spent over 2,200 hours of her life hooked up to a machine to help prolong her life. What can you do with 2,200 hours of your life? My mom missed out on a lot! There were days she was so tired that she couldn’t attend events she wanted to or couldn’t even make it to work.

 Female hand holding model of human kidney organ at back of body

In October 2016, Mom’s doctor’s office called to move up her yearly checkup. After her checkup, we received the news. We had a DONOR! Not just any donor, a LIVE donor! We were in shock! Who was this person? Did we know him or her? Why did they decide to do this? All questions that would soon be answered. Turns out our guardian angel’s name was Kinda Pellino, and she was an acquaintance who knew my mom through the flower shop where my mom worked. A simple conversation between her and my mom’s boss turned out to be the biggest blessing we could ever receive! Kinda is an amazing woman who selflessly decided to give a part of herself to help save my mother’s life!

Once Kinda and my mom completed all of their testing and were given the go ahead for the surgery, the date was set. December 12, 2016, would be the day our prayers were to be answered. Even as I sit here typing this, it brings a tear to my eye and I still wonder why. Why did Kinda decide to do this? What was going through her head as she prepared to give up one of her organs? I wanted to know this angel, I needed to know her and meet her.

I got that chance on November 26, 2016. I will never forget that day. She is simply the most amazing person I have ever met. After talking with her, I found we had a connection through work. Turns out our angel is a massage therapist right here at Starved Rock Lodge. Talk about a small world! In getting to know Kinda and her family, I learned that the journey that led to her decision to be our donor started with heartbreak. Something no parent should ever have to go through. Kinda tragically lost her son Cody in an automobile accident. It was through his death that she got involved with organ donation and the benefits of it. Because of that, she started looking into how she could help others.

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Many people have asked her “why?” Why would she do this? What was she thinking? She sums it up perfectly in her response on Facebook, “I am young enough to recuperate easily and healthy enough to donate now. We don’t know how we are going to die, or if our organs will be viable when we die. The decision was easy. This world revolves around random acts of kindness, we cannot always be selfish and think only of ourselves.”

December 12, 2016, was the longest day ever. We went up to pre-op to see Mom and Kinda before surgery. Once we were taken down to the waiting room, the minutes and hours just dragged on and on. Kinda was taken back about 8:30 a.m. Mom went back around 9:15 a.m. We received word about 1:50 p.m. that the kidney was in and the surgery almost complete. At 3:45 p.m., we were finally taken to see mom in her room. The surgery was a SUCCESS! The kidney has been functioning perfectly.

Words can’t express how grateful we are to Kinda for her amazing gift. She is truly our guardian angel and our hero. We will never be able to repay her for what she did for us! We love her, and she is now a part of our family.

Organ donation is a blessing. If you aren’t already listed as an organ donor, please consider it. You never know whose life you can save.

– Laura Guerrero