Why I Dash: Dana's Living Donor Kidney Transplant Story

Living kidney donor Dana and her recipient Dad with Dr. Porrett

Dana Farengo Clark is a living kidney donor and a proud member of Team Penn Medicine for the 2018 Gift of Life Donor Program’s Donor Dash. Dana took some time to share with us what the Dash means to her. Here's her story:

Last year, my dad retired on his 70th birthday, and after years of suffering with kidney stones, his kidneys stopped working. I am a Penn Medicine genetic counselor in the Hematology/Oncology department, so I suggested he come up from Florida to Penn for a kidney transplant evaluation with the Penn Kidney Transplant team. There was a large community of support here in Philadelphia for him – which is important post-transplant – and the Penn Kidney Transplant Program has an excellent reputation – so it just made a lot sense for him to come here.

My father flew up from Florida to meet with the kidney transplant team and learn what options were available for treatment. After meeting with the transplant team, we learned that the waiting time in the Greater Philadelphia region is five to seven years for a kidney transplant. By the time a deceased donor kidney was available, the surgery might not have been safe for my father because of his age.

I thought, “This is NOT OK. This man has given me everything and I’ve got to do something to help him.” I knew that living donor kidney transplant was the best option for him to get his life back, so I suggested living donation to him.

Convincing Dad

At first, my father was 100 percent against the idea that I could be his living kidney donor. He was concerned about the potential risks to me, and I literally had to force him to let me begin the donor evaluation process to see if I was even a match.

When I found out I was a match for my dad, I couldn’t believe it.  When I called him to tell him, he said, “I knew you would be!” because we’ve heard my entire life that I look just like him.

After initially being very reluctant, my dad’s health took a turn for the worse. He wasn’t able to play tennis or drive. During that time, he also had the opportunity to speak with a person who had accepted a living donor kidney 16 years earlier, which was very helpful. These factors, and the information we learned from the Penn transplant team about the safety of living donation, helped my dad feel more comfortable. He accepted my offer to be evaluated as a living donor on his behalf, so we proceeded.

Donation Day

After extensive testing, it was determined that it was safe for me to be a living donor, and our surgery date was set for July 27, 2017.

Thanks to our amazing team at Penn – Dr. Peter Abt, Dr. Simin Goral and Dr. Paige Porrett - and the support of my mother, sisters and husband, my dad and I underwent a successful living donor transplant.

The morning after surgery, I was so sore I couldn’t imagine combing my hair (which I did not do) and my father walked in to my room to tell me that Dorothy (his newly adopted kidney) was working! It was the most incredible morning of my life.

Why I Dash

Short of having my daughter, I have never been so thankful for anything. The gift that my father allowed me to give him and seeing him live again for the first time in years is a blessing. Life truly is a gift and one that is meant to be shared.

On April 15, I will be doing the 10K run during the Gift of Life Donor Program’s Donor Dash. I am excited to show that living kidney donors are able to return to all their typical activities. I know my parents had been very nervous about me being a live donor. I was a runner before my donation, so it will feel great to participate in the Dash and celebrate my return to running by being part of Team Penn Medicine.

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The Penn Medicine Transplant blog features short postings with news about the transplant program at Penn Medicine, notices about upcoming events and health information. Subscribe to the blog and stay connected with Penn's Transplant Program!

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