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Transplant stories

The Goralski family

Kidney Recipient and Donors   Naperville, Illinois

The Goralski siblings (Hannah, Bethany, and Josh) are striving to be the change they want to see in the world. After losing their father, Mark, to complications of kidney failure and Crohn’s disease at age 57, they have taken the inspiration from their father’s lifelong altruism and translated it into advocating for better access to organs for those who need them most.

All three siblings are kidney donors. Josh donated a kidney to his father in 2011, helping temporarily restore Mark’s health for another eight years. Then, after Mark passed away in 2019, before he could recieve another transplant, Hannah and Bethany, donated their kidneys to two strangers and helped start a donor chain. Their selfless acts have all helped to raise awareness about kidney disease and the need for more options for people on the transplant waitlist.

Paul Rakoski and Kelly Demello

Kidney Recipient and Donor   Bourne, Massachusetts

Paul and Kelly are two friends whose connection was forever bolstered by kidney donation. Paul was born with Fabry disease, a rare lysosomal storage disorder where his cells cannot properly dispose of waste. He was not diagnosed with Fabry until his 30s, and at that point his kidneys were already in bad shape and it became clear he would require a transplant to survive.

Kelly met Paul in college and the two shared a tight-knit group of friends who affectionately call themselves “The Supper Club.” It was at a dinner in 2008, when Kelly learned about Paul’s need, and she did not hesitate to act. After a year of tests she was able to donate to Paul in February of 2009. It’s been over a decade since then, and Paul remains healthy and active with his friend’s gift of life still inside him.

Edward Drake II

Kidney Recipient and Founder of the YNOTT? Foundation   Atlanta, Georgia

Edward Drake was inspired to action by his own failing kidneys. At 20 years old, at the height of his athletic prowess, the aspiring college football player was struck with acute renal failure. His life changed dramatically in that moment, as he started dialysis twice a week, and got on the waiting list for a new kidney. It would take three years until he received his transplant.

However, Edward’s plight would be reconciled. He soon realized that his situation was much better than others’, specifically the many pediatric kidney patients who he met. In 2007, Edward hatched an idea to ameliorate some of the burden on these young patients and their families by launching the YNOTT? Foundation. Since then, he has had the opportunity to impact hundreds of lives and spread the word about the need for better education and resources to prevent and treat kidney disease as well as supporting people, like himself, who have already received a transplant.

Shameka

Waiting for a kidney   Jacksonville, Florida

Shameka went to the hospital at 14 years old with uncontrollable swelling in her face, legs, and feet. Doctors first diagnosed her with allergy attacks. However, she soon learned that it was due to kidney failure, which began a multi-decade odyssey to remain healthy agianst the backdrop of numerous life challenges.

Now in her 40s, Shameka has undergone two kidney transplants and is waiting for a third. She has spent most of her life on renal dialysis. After struggling with in-center dialysis regimens for years, Shameka now does hemodialysis at home, allowing her to manage her chronic kidney disease more easily, giving her the ability to return to work and spend more time with her two children.