Sandra Galloway, 60, was excited to return to singing in her church choir. After getting a new kidney almost two years ago this would be her first day back with the choir.
Every day, an average of 79 people receive organ transplants.
Organdonor.gov, a website run by the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, however says there are more than 121,500 people on the waiting list for an organ. Because of these long waiting lists, the website says, 18 people will die each day waiting for transplants that will not take place because of the shortage of donated organs.
On the eve of Thanksgiving 2012, Galloway, a then Brooklyn social worker, had undergone a kidney transplant procedure at the New York Presbyterian Colombia Hospital. Before the procedure she had been going for dialysis three nights a week after work for 18 months.
“I was doing three-and-half hours on the machine,” Galloway said. “It takes your strength away, you’re very weak, all I had time to do was to come home and crash and get up in the morning and I went back to work.”
Galloway said that she kept working and traveling even though it meant having large needles sticking to her body in order to dialyze wherever she went. She mentioned that her blood got infected at one point from carrying a catheter in her body for too long.
Even though Galloway was not on the donor waiting list at the time, she knew that her survival chances were higher if she got an organ from a living donor. With her strong faith in God and the First Central Baptist Church, in Staten Island, she shared what she was going through with her church sister Antoinnette Donegan, New York Amsterdam News Comptroller, who later became her organ donor.
Speaking to AmNews from her Harlem office, Donegan said she was not directly approached to donate her kidney but that it had always been what she wanted to do. She said donating her kidney to Galloway was her second attempt at being an organ donor. She said God inspired her to donate her kidney to her church sister Galloway after the first would-be recipient died in 2009 before the procedure could take place.
Galloway said that the person was one of her fellow churchgoers, a 30-year-old man, who had also been visiting the Richmond Dialysis Center in Staten Island around the same time that she was going. He had stopped dialysis and died a week before the surgeries were supposed to take place, Galloway said.
Donegan said the organ transplant process with her second potential recipient, Galloway, started as soon as they found out she and Galloway were a match. The fact that the New York Presbyterian Cornell Hospital already had her test results from the first attempted donor transplant made the pre-preparation process faster, she said.
Donegan said the procedure was long and laborious but said that Galloway’s recovery has more than compensated for any inconvenience the procedure caused.
“She’s so joyous. I call her my right kidney sister…” Donegan said humorously adding, “and she says that before she had the kidney, she didn’t text as much and now she texts so much and she says she got that from me.”
As of May 4, 2009, more than 69 percent of kidney recipients were still living 5-years after their transplants, according to Organdonor.gov website. More than 74 percent heart, 73 percent liver and 54 percent lung recipients were also reported to still be alive 5-years after their transplant, said Organdonor.gov.
Galloway said the entire process has had a great effect on her and her faith in God has been strengthened.
“You ask God for something, trusting and believing…I’m sort of like a determined person…it had a great effect on me when Antoinette came to me and said she was led to be my donor,” said Galloway. “I hope other people would be inspired to donate their organ to give another person life,” said Galloway.