10 people donate or receive new kidneys in 10 days at Memorial Hermann

We met the people behind the donations and the recipients
Monday, July 14, 2014
Ten people over 10 days all received or donated a new kidney to a loved one at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center.

On the day of their first check-ups, ABC-13 spoke with seven of them.

Patricia Bolar and Debra Garrett-Graves aren't just sisters. Bolar raised her 10 siblings when she was just 18 years old.

Their mother died from polycystic kidney disease, and Bolar was born with it. She was on dialysis for two years before receiving her sister's kidney.

"She was like when you're ready for your kidney. I got it. And, I was like okay," Bolar said. "I love her for doing this for me. I couldn't have asked for a better gift."

Garrett didn't hesitate to step in and help her sister who had given so much to her.

"It makes me feel even better to give back because she sacrificed a lot for me, so why can't I sacrifice for her?" Garrett-Graves said.

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After extreme headaches, 46-year-old Ben Nigh, from The Woodlands was diagnosed with Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) disease last October.

The disease was so serious that doctors said they had to remove both kidneys. His mother gave him the gift of life a second time.

"I was apprehensive about taking a kidney from my Mom. The way I reconcile it is, I have a 3-year-old daughter, and if she ever needed a kidney or anything, there wouldn't be a question," Nigh said.

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Anna Paek's kidneys failed during her pregnancy. She lost her right eye and was worried she would lose her son too. Noah was born at less than 3 lbs, but is 11 months old and healthy now.

"I feel like we're very blessed," Paek said.

Anna's sister Jia donated her kidney, and now they survive the setbacks with humor.

"My sister is hoping I get her sixth senses now. I want her to have a sixth sense. I'm hoping she can read my feelings and thoughts because she has my kidney," Jia said. "The other day in the kitchen, I said that was exactly what I was thinking, maybe it's working."

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The group's doctor is Dr. Steve Bynon, chief of abdominal transplantation at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center and UT Health.

"They had someone stand up and say I will donate for you, give this gift to you. Granted some are wives and would give you the shirt off their backs, but it doesn't happen as much as you think," Bynon said.

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Speaking of husbands and wives, Paul and Wei Kronfield will celebrate 23 years together soon.

"Because I never believed in a wedding ring, now our kidney is like a marriage ring to each other. Implanted to each other," Wei said.

The 23rd anniversary gift is traditionally a silver plate, but Wei outdid herself this year.

"Before she was my wife and my best friend. Now, she's my angel," Paul said.

Last year, 14,000 people received new kidneys in the U.S. Of those, around 4,700 came from living donors. In Texas, it was 10 percent of that.
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