Giving and Receiving the Gift of Life

August 02, 2017
Giving and Receiving the Gift of Life

Jose Reyes (L) and Sarah Miknis (R) met for the first time on January 6, 2017. “She’s an angel,” says Jose.

Intrigued By a Speech

Sarah Miknis, a photographer for the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences, is a living kidney donor. After hearing Professor of Surgery and Chief of the GW Transplant Institute J. Keith Melancon, MD, FACS, speak about kidney donation at an event, Sarah decided to become a donor. “I was excited about how quickly a recipient was identified and the surgery was scheduled,” says Sarah.

Thomas Jarrett, MD

Thomas Jarrett, MD, Chair of the Department of Urology at GW Hospital and Professor of Urology at The GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences, removed one of Sarah’s kidneys and Dr. Melancon implanted it into Jose Reyes.

Sarah went home after two days with only mild discomfort for a few days. She says she feels great and has no residual effects. “If you are in good health and want to be a donor, you should do it. This has been very rewarding because I was able to change someone else’s life for the better,” says Sarah.

A Life Saved

Jose Reyes had a long history of battling diabetes and kidney problems, and was diagnosed with stage 4 kidney failure. He signed up for the GW Transplant Institute list, and after a few months, he received the call that would change his life forever. “They told me I met the criteria as a kidney recipient, and that I was going to get a new kidney. I am so grateful for the excellent care I received at GW Hospital and by Dr. Melancon and the nursing team,” Jose says. “But mostly, I am forever in debt to Sarah for her kidney donation because it saved my life!”

Ron and Joy Paul Kidney Center

Many people with kidney disease do not find out they have it until it is advanced. Established in 2015, The Ron and Joy Paul Kidney Center works with GW Hospital to address the urgent need in the DC area for increased awareness of kidney disease prevention, diagnosis, treatment options and kidney donation.

To learn more, call 202-715-4330 or visit the GW Kidney Awareness Campaign >

Melancon Keith

According to the National Kidney Foundation, more than 17,000 kidney transplants take place every year, yet there are more than 100,000 people waiting for a kidney. “Most people who need a kidney will never receive one,” says J. Keith Melancon, MD, FACS, Professor of Surgery and Chief of the GW Transplant Institute. “That’s why we work hard to raise awareness about living donors, and we have the resources here at GW Hospital to help so many people. The recent increase in donors has made a positive impact in the lives of many,” he says.

Inspired to Donate

Jacob Lambdin (L) and Andrew Lewis (R)

Jacob Lambdin (L) and Andrew Lewis (R) were excited to meet each other. “Jacob saved my life,” says Andrew.

Jacob Lambdin, a third-year medical student at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, was inspired to consider kidney donation during his two-week surgical rotation. “The seed was planted, and I signed up to learn more,” he says. Jacob started the evaluation process and was surprised how quickly he was evaluated and matched. One of his kidneys went to Andrew Lewis, whose hereditary kidney disease was rapidly progressing. After the surgery, Jacob says he felt completely back to normal, and only needed minimal pain medication. “I feel no different than before I donated. We have two kidneys, and I was happy to give one of mine to help someone else live a longer life.”

Avoiding Dialysis in the Knick of Time

Andrew Lewis’ kidney function was steadily declining and his doctor sent him to GW Hospital to see if he qualified for a kidney transplant. He was placed on the transplant list, but in the meantime, his doctor wrote an order for a port implant for dialysis. Andrew was on his way to the dialysis center when he received a call from the transplant coordinator at GW Hospital. “She told me they have a possible donor and to hold off on getting the port. I was literally a few days away from having it done!” he says. Andrew received Jacob’s kidney and says the care at GW Hospital was the best he’d ever encountered. “I felt good as new in a couple of weeks, and I am so thankful. I didn’t feel like a patient, I felt like a family member,” he says.

The Donors and Recipients Meet for the First Time

Mere weeks after their surgeries, emotions ran high when Sarah met Jose and Jacob met Andrew for the first time on January 6, 2017. All were grateful for the experience and continue to stay in touch, as well as share their stories with others to promote living kidney donation.

Learn more about the GW Transplant Institute >