Long-Time Friends Receive Kidney Transplant From Same Donor
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
CAMDEN -- On Sunday, July 31, 2011, Michael Santiago and Vanessa Coursey unknowingly each received phone calls from Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center with news that a donor kidney was available. Their surgeries were set to take place the following day. Having each waited several years on the transplant list, it appeared their prayers had finally been answered.
Santiago, 49 and Coursey, 54, had first met twenty years ago when Santiago, a police officer at the time, responded to a 911 call in Coursey's neighborhood in Millville, NJ. Both residents of the town, they would occasionally run into one another and over time their acquaintanceship turned into a friendship as both developed kidney disease--Coursey from chronic high blood pressure and Santiago from a serious infection caused by the E. coli bacteria.
Ironically, both friends were on dialysis and had spoken just two weeks prior regarding their hopes for transplants. Each has a rare O-negative blood type, which increases wait time on the transplant list to an average of eight years.
The similarities continued as they both received a kidney transplant from the same donor at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center on August 1. "It's special both of our kidneys came from the same donor and we know each other," said Santiago. "We had the same problem and now we have the same solution." Lourdes is currently the only hospital in central and southern New Jersey licensed to perform kidney, pancreas and liver transplants.
The Lourdes surgeon who performed the transplantations, Dr. Ely M. Sebastian, was amazed by the coincidence. "It's not unusual for several organs to come from one donor," said Dr. Sebastian. "It is uncommon, however, for two friends to each get a kidney from the same donor."
Having heard from a close friend that the other recipient was a woman from Millville, a fairly small town in Cumberland County, Santiago decided to scope out the floor to see if the patient was in fact Vanessa. As he approached her room, Santiago saw Coursey and her family. They soon began putting the missing pieces together and discovered that both had received kidneys from the same donor on the same day.
The coincidences surrounding Santiago and Coursey are something that even science can't explain. "This is truly a gift," said Dr. Chakravarty, a Lourdes transplant nephrologist. "We often take the credit as doctors, but there's something else to explain this."
It will take an estimated six months for Santiago, a Cumberland County College security guard, and Coursey, a former housekeeper, to fully recover from the transplants. Lourdes staff will monitor them for the rest of their lives.
Santiago and Coursey look forward to celebrating their new "birthdays" next year, as the day they each received a second chance at life. Both have high hopes and look forward to doing things they couldn't do before. Santiago plans on running a marathon a year from now and Coursey looks forward to caring for her newborn granddaughter - born the same day she received her new kidney.