The gift of life
PinnacleHealth | 12.17.13
In 2010, Christina “Chrissy” Kihm, of Middletown, was dying. “I was born with Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD), a disease that is passed down through families. PKD causes the kidney to become enlarged, resulting in end-stage kidney disease. In July 2010 my right kidney was removed. I had good kidney function after the surgery, and we thought we were golden for many more years. Eight weeks later, my remaining kidney grew rapidly and took over my abdominal cavity. On October 14, 2010, I had my last native kidney removed and began dialysis the next day."
"My only hope to be healthy again was getting a transplant. For the next year, I waited for a miracle.”
Justine Stere, Chrissy’s half-sister, jumped at the chance to help. “We’ve always been close. Because of her kidney disease, we knew years ago that she would need a transplant someday … but we never expected it to be this early in life.”
Chrissy and Justine turned to the PinnacleHealth Transplant team for help. “My living donor coordinator, Nancy, was wonderful and made me feel very comfortable,” describes Justine. “I wasn’t worried about my own health -- I just wanted everything to work out for Chrissy.”
“After extensive testing, which included complete medical history, physical exams, chest X-rays, medical review, lab testing, tissue cross-match, meetings with an independent donor advocate and social workers, Dr. Seth Narins implanted my little sister’s kidney into me January 10, 2012 at Harrisburg Hospital,” explains Chrissy.
“By the time of the transplant, I had had so many surgeries that it just felt like a normal occurrence to me. I knew in my heart that God did not bring us this far just to have something happen to one of us during or after surgery. I remember feeling oddly calm and at peace up until the moment they wheeled Justine around the corner. At that point it became very real very quickly, and I lost it. I felt terrible needing her to go through such a huge surgery to save my life."
"She chose to get tested. She chose to go through surgery. She chose to give up one of her organs and save my life. She chose all of these things. For me."
"I was overwhelmed with reality and love for her that still takes my breath away to this day.”
Justine is humbled by the experience. “Chrissy and I are closer than ever now. To see how much she has changed since her surgery has been just wonderful. She is back to work and a regular life. It is so much better than when she was sick all the time. To be able to change someone’s life is just an incredible experience.”