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Seven employees donate kidneys at Loyola University Medical Center

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



Kindness seems to be contagious at Loyola University Medical Center.

Five of the Maywood hospital’s employees have donated kidneys to complete strangers since last year, and two others were good samaritan kidney donors to casual acquaintances.

The altruistic donors — nicknamed “The Seven Sisters of Loyola” — appear to have set a world record for the most employees of a single company donating kidneys to non-relatives, hospital officials said Wednesday.

Their generosity also helped launch Loyola’s “Pay it Forward” kidney donation program, which uses the non-profit National Kidney Registry to try to turn a single altruistic donation into a “chain” of multiple kidney transplants.

When a good samaritan steps forward, they’re matched with a recipient who may have a relative or friend willing to donate a kidney, but can’t for medical reasons. That relative then agrees to donate to someone else who has a willing donor in the same situation, allowing more transplants to occur.

Since the program started last year, 18 donors have made it possible for 95 transplants to occur, including 28 transplants that were part of chains started by the Seven Sisters.

Most of the women said they became interested in kidney donation because of a family member or friend who had battled kidney disease.

For dental hygienist Jodi Tamen, however, it was simply the desire to “do something more…because I could.”

“I thought, ‘I’m healthy, and I have the energy,’” said Tamen, whose kidney went to a poet in California. “I just wanted to give that gift to someone.”

Kidneys are the most in-demand donor organs, and every year, thousands of Americans die while waiting for one.

Most transplanted kidneys come from deceased donors or from relatives or close friends. So-called good Samaritan, or altruistic, donations are relatively rare.

The first altruistic donor was Dr. Susan Hou, medical director of Loyola’s renal transplant program, who made headlines in 2002 when she gave a kidney to one of her patients, Hermelinda Gutierrez. At the time, she was believed to be the first U.S. physician to donate a kidney to a patient.

Barbara Thomas, an administrative secretary in Loyola’s kidney transplant program, followed in 2009 when she donated a kidney to her 34-year-old former tenant, James Love.

The transplant allowed Love — who suffered from kidney failure as a result of sickle cell anemia — to get off dialysis and get back to spending time with his children, he said.

“That stuff is priceless, and she gave it all back to me,” Love said of Thomas.

The other Loyola employees who gave kidneys to complete strangers are: credentialing coordinator Cristina Lamb, whose kidney went to a Rockford man; registered nurse Jane Thomas, who donated to a Bellwood man; Dorothy Jambrosek, administrative director of the Graduate Medical Education Program; and Cynthia Blakemore, manager of Loyola’s clinical laboratory department.

Jambrosek said she hopes the Seven Sisters’ example will be a “call to action” for others to become organ donors.

“We believe there are others like us who are willing and able to make a difference,” she said.

April is National Donate Life month. To learn more about becoming an organ donor, visit www.donatelifeillinois.org.



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