Kidney On Board
MUNCY – Two Muncy women coming together with so much in common, yet fate put them closer together. For Doris Swartz and Beth Schultz, their outcomes couldn’t have a more happy ending.
On April 9 of this year both women made a trip together to Geisinger Medical Center for a kidney transplant. Doris E. Swartz who is assistant vice-president of elctronic banking and security at Muncy Bank has suffered from kidney problems for thirty years of her life which could possibly have been from a strep infection as a teenager. “But the doctors are not sure. There is not a true known cause,” said Swartz. “I do know that on September 23 I was given an ultimatum by my doctor. He said I needed dialysis or a kidney transplant, and I only had two weeks to decide.” Her heart was working only at a rate of thirteen percent for her. The progression of failure had been slow up until now. She had to find a donor. She had been under the care of Dr. Daniel Gandy, a Nephrologist with West Branch Nephrology in Williamsport for her condition.
Geisinger is one of only a few transplant centers in the country, where use of what’s called tolerogenic immunosuppression limits the need for steroids after surgery and reduces the risk of rejection. Physicians and surgeons are using both new and tested techniques like this to improve long-term health and quality of life.
Fortunately, sixteen people came forth to help. “I had lots of support from my family and friends,” she said. But finding the perfect match in such a short time was a challenge.
In order to find a good donor, Swartz needed a type 0 positive. Even is someone had the same blood type, there were so many other variables to find a good donor. Having a good immune system and healthy lifestyle, other organs functioning well, and especially healthy blood cells.
Swartz was in luck. A co-worker at the bank came forth among other volunteers who turned out to be a perfect match for her. Beth W. Schultz, a customer service officer at Muncy Bank readily volunteered to be tested as a possible kidney donor for Swartz. In the next two weeks all sixteen people were tested and eliminated except for Schultz. Schultz said she had to go through various tests at all levels to determine her functionality as a donor for Swartz. Four of the sixteen donors including Schultz turned out to be possible donors but in the end Schultz blood type was the perfect match.
As it turned out, not only were the women co-workers, but they are the same age. In January of this year Doris and I turned over a new chapter,” said Schultz. I turned fifty that month and three months later Doris turned fifty. We have worked together for eleven years and got to be good friends. But this experience really brought us closer.
We would make trips together to Geisinger Medical Center for our extensive testings and discovered more about each other,” Schultz explained. “And the bank was so supportive by giving us the time to do this, once the decision was made that Beth was going to be my donor,” adds Swartz. That came on November 12 when doctors confirmed that all of the cross matching met the criteria. Schultz said she had to have blood work taken often, an ultra sound, chest x-rays, an EKG, ‘Cat Scan and updated OBGYN clearances to proceed. “It wasn’t just one round of testing,” said Schultz, “I had to go back again for various screenings such as diabetic testing.” Each case is unique for donors but everything proved to be just right for Swartz’s body.
Both women were also living healthy lives being careful to keep their immunity systems working at optimum level. Swartz had to have an angiogram and together the women traveled to Danville to give blood and to continue their cross-matching. Several blood tests were given along the way and each trip brought the two women closer together.
Schutlz was approved for the surgery in February and on March 31 after another blood test, a delay was given to Swartz due to a flu shot that created an antibody which made a “marker” on Beth’s blood. “Flu shots are a conflict. I was given medication to suppress my immune system,” said Swartz. “I can’t have any signs of cancer or any diseases that will compromise my immune system.”
Because Swartz was not on dialysis, her condition was not critical yet so she had a better chance at recovery time. If Schultz hadn’t come through as a perfect match for her kidney, Swartz would have been on dialysis and the National Kidney Transplant Waiting List.
“We learned a lot about our health and body organs through this whole process” said the women. On March 31 a final cross match was made and surgery was scheduled for April 9. “I’ll never forget the time when the coordinator for this called me at the bank to tell me I can do it. It was Monday, April 6. I was so happy for Doris, I went upstairs right away to share the good news,” said Schultz whose blood was sent to a lab in Nashville for a final testing.
Together the women went down to Geisinger Medical Center the night before and stayed at the Pine Barn Inn. “Doris was as nervous as can be,” discovered Schultz, “because the only medical trauma in her life so far were just four stitches on the back of her hand!”
Overall, all obstacles had been overcome and the surgery was successful. Beth went home on Thursday and Doris went home on Saturday. The bank was wonderful said the women. They gave them medical leave and prayer lists were everywhere they exclaimed. “Everything was in our favor, including the planets,” they said. The surgery occurred between two major religious holidays.
April 8 was a special holiday in the Jewish faith. ” it only occurs every 28 years. The Blessing of the Sun – it is the day the sun’s position is in the exact place when the world was created and it was this year, the day before our surgery,” adds Swartz. “With all the holy days celebrated at the time of our surgery, how could we go wrong!” She is referring to the Blessing of the Sun, Passover, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter and all of our families and friends – we are truly blessed! It was just three months ago since the surgery and both women are doing well.
“We are like sisters now. We want to thank the entire community for their support, kind words, prayers and most of all, the hugs that paid off. The fellowship has been outstanding.”