Longtime brain tumor survivor to donate kidney to co-worker's husband

Kristin Thorne Image
Thursday, November 29, 2018
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Kristin Thorne reports on the Long Island brain tumor survivor's heroic donation.

LONG ISLAND, New York -- A woman battling brain tumors for the past 20 years has undergone seven reconstructive surgeries.

At one point, Kristine Gawlowski had brain swelling and had to be fed through a feeding tube for 11 months.

"I often told my mom that there has to be a reason that God kept me alive, that I've survived that I'm still here," the mother of four said. "There has to be a purpose."

Gawlowski may have found her reason.

About a year ago, Gawlowski was on social media and saw a post by one of her co-workers at Tangier Smith Elementary School. Amy Surrey had posted that her husband was in dire need of a kidney donor. The couple has five children.

Artie Surrey, 44, has polycystic kidney disease, which results in cysts overtaking his kidneys. About two years ago, his kidneys began to fail. Doctors advised him he should get on a kidney donor list.

Gawlowski recounted Wednesday to how she approached Amy about becoming a donor for her husband.

"I went up to her in school one day, and I said, 'Is that your husband on the post about needing a kidney?'" Gawlowski said. "And she said, 'Yeah.' And I said, 'I'll get tested.' And she said, 'Really?' And I said, 'Sure, why not?'"

Amy admitted she initially tried to talk Gawlowski out of it, because of Gawlowski's previous health battles.

"She was very adamant about it, and I'm so grateful," Amy said, while hugging Gawlowski.

Gawlowski began the process for approval to become a donor in February. It took many months to get approval, because Gawlowski had to get approximately eight to 10 doctors to sign off on the procedure.

The doctors, including an ENT, a neurologist and a radiation oncologist, had to ensure that Gawlowski could survive the procedure and recovery due to her past health battles. Humans are able to function perfectly with only one kidney.

Artie called Gawlowski his hero.

"It's like a light at the end of the tunnel," he said. "To be able to think that I'm going to be off of dialysis and not stuck to that chair for four and a half hours a day, three days a week."

The surgery is scheduled for Dec. 4. The Mastic Beach Fire Department, where Artie is a lieutenant, is holding a fundraiser for Gawlowski.

The goal is to raise money for Gawlowski for the three to six weeks she will have to be out of work recovering from the surgery.

For more information on becoming a kidney donor, visit the National Kidney Registry