A “Miracle” Transplant Happens In Pennsylvania Because Of A Mother-in-law’s Chatty Talk At The Nail Shop

A "Miracle" Transplant Happens In Pennsylvania Because Of A Mother-in-law's Chatty Talk At The Nail Shop

PA’S DAUPHIN COUNTY — MacKenzy Zerby says she might have been mad if she knew that Katherine Zerby, her mother-in-law, was talking about her health at the nail shop.

But MacKenzy is so happy about that mistake.

MacKenzy was eight years old when she learned she had Type 1 Diabetes. It’s no secret that she didn’t always take care of herself. By the summer of 2018, she was 32 years old and had kidney failure.

“My nephrologist called me and said, ‘Your kidneys are at 10%.'” “You need to get to the hospital right away,” MacKenzy Zerby said. “I visited that place. After a test, they told me in less than 12 hours, “Your kidneys are now 8%.”

A lot of her awake time had already been spent on dialysis, driving to and from meetings, or being tired from it all.

Kathryn Zerby met a woman she knows at Katie’s Nails in Halifax, Dauphin County, around the same time. The woman asked everyone how they were. Katherine told the truth, even when it meant saying that MacKenzy needed a kidney badly, just two months after she got married.

‘Don’t worry,’ she told him. “Everything will work out,” Katherine Zerby remembered what they had talked about.

“And after two weeks, the woman calls me at work and asks, ‘Kathy, are you sitting down?'” she said.

“Katherine called me and told me I needed to go to the hospital,” MacKenzy Zerby said. Someone we know got hurt, and she found me a kidney. She told me to call the transplant team. I told Kathy, “I haven’t even seen them yet.”

She had signed up for UPMC Harrisburg’s transplant program, but she hadn’t been through any of the months of tests and evaluations that come before a transplant committee makes a choice.

Kim Barnett, program leader for UPMC Harrisburg’s kidney transplant program, said, “I was out of town at the time and got a call.”

The accident took place, the person died, and MacKenzy could use their kidney. But organs only stay healthy for hours or days at most, not months.

But Barnett still called the doctors.

“And we went over the steps and agreed that if we could help someone with a directed donor instead of making them wait years for a transplant, we should do it,” Barnett said.

“UPMC transplant called and said, ‘Hi, we’ve never done this with a patient we haven’t seen before.'” MacKenzy thought back. “Right now, we need to get you here.”

This is a rare blood type for MacKenzy. The odds were still very bad. Even if it wasn’t this kidney, she thought that by speeding up this part of the process, she might get one sooner than she would have otherwise.

There were then more calls, tests, and an emergency meeting of the transplant committee. Sure enough, within a day, MacKenzy was admitted to the hospital for a transplant that he could have waited decades to get. She remembers having a new kidney when she woke up in the ICU.

She says she feels better now than any time since she was a high school star. After getting married in June 2023, she finally gets to go on the vacation she missed with her husband. She hopes it will be to Jamaica.

She feels lucky every time she walks her dog and is happy and healthy.

In the middle of National Donate Life Month, the main points about organ and tissue donors are easy to see.

But there is one more special one. Along with all the technology and the kindness of the transplant team that tried to do what seemed impossible—a process that usually takes months in just one day—there were important times when people talked to each other.

One was her sharing with the other woman at the salon, which MacKenzy might have thought was too much sharing if she had known.

Apple said, “Thanks to her and my donor, telling someone I didn’t even know saved my life.”

As Barnett of the transplant program put it, “because people with renal failure don’t look any different from the rest of the population.” “And other people won’t know about their need unless they tell their story.”

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