Cliff O’Connell’s future was already quite dark. In 2019, he had kidney disease for 14 years.
“‘ Am I going to do dialysis? Will I have to stop working? Because I work 70 to 80 hours a week and I couldn’t imagine sitting, “said O’Connell.
He needed a transplant. For those who need a new kidney, says Kari Rancourt, avoiding dialysis is crucial.
“Your best option is to have a transplant quickly – preferably, before you even need to start dialysis, and this is really an option with a living donation,” said Rancourt, living donor transplant coordinator at Hartford Hospital.
She says that, traditionally, the emphasis has been on donor registration – people who signed up to donate organs after death. This waiting list, on which O’Connell could have been placed, can last from five to seven years.
“As soon as I reached a certain percentage of kidney function – decreasing to about 15% – we started the whole process and, in six months, I had the transplant,” said O’Connell.
O’Connell, who is from Durham, spoke to Connecticut Public Radio on April 7, the first nationally recognized living donation observance. O’Connell and local advocates for those in need of life-saving organ transplants marked this by asking people to register to donate a kidney.
When O’Connell went on his journey to find a living donor, he and his wife created an advertising campaign that involved posters in their cars encouraging donation. As the campaign continued, a family friend introduced himself.
Joanne Denault, from East Hartford, called Rancourt’s team at Hartford Hospital and took the test.
“The results came back and I was up to it,” said Denault.
But that was not the end of the saga. His kidney was very small, so Rancourt’s live donor transplant unit had to be creative.
“We approached them with the option of entering an exchange program as a compatible match and basically helped them find a bigger kidney for Cliff that would give him better results and less surgical risk, and allow Joanne to donate to someone else who might be more hard to find, ”said Rancourt.
O’Connell got his new kidney. He credits Denault for the life-saving transplant.
“I owe her my life,” said O’Connell. “There is nothing more that can be said – so generous of her to do so.”
In exchange for sacrificing a kidney, Denault says he won an electrician for life – and a family member.
“Although we are not blood, we are a family,” said Denault.
In addition to having to drink more water and continuously monitoring his protein intake, Denault said the donation had minimal physical impact on his livelihood.
“After the surgery, in two weeks I was a little bit back to normal,” said Denault. “I would tell anyone who is thinking of doing this, who wants to do it for a friend, a family member or a stranger, do it. It’s an incredible, incredible feeling. “
Potential donors can visit www.hartfordhospital.org/livingdonation or call (860) -696-2021 for more information.