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Avera Medical Minute: Woman donates a kidney to longtime friend

Published: Apr. 25, 2021 at 9:38 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -

Two Rapid City women have a friendship that grows stronger through the years. Stacey Laub and Jane Beisner, met through their daughters, 18 years ago.

“Our girls went to kindergarten, and they went through all 12 years of school together,” said Laub.

A few years ago, Stacey revealed her health problem to Jane.

“We were out to dinner together for summer nights, and she told me about the kidney disease which I didn’t know about,” said Beisner.

“Polycystic kidneys, which I found out when I was 21. And so, I knew over time that my kidney function would drop,” said Laub.

Avera Transplant physician Dr. Robert Santella monitored her condition and provided guidance.

“She really had three options. She had ten percent kidney function. The first option was dialysis and dialysis is acceptable, but it’s not as good as a real kidney because people have a poor quality of life and shortened life,” said Dr. Robert Santella.

Her other two options were both kidney transplants, either from a deceased donor after a five-year wait, or a live donor...provided she could find one. That’s when Jane began testing to see if she’d qualify to give her friend Stacey a kidney.

“And then if the labs are good and labs showing they don’t have diabetes their kidney function is good, then we get it we do a full evaluation,” said Dr. Robert Santella.

“If it worked out that I was able to do it, then it was meant to be. So it worked out that I was a match,” said Beisner.

These ladies didn’t have to drive to Sioux Falls for their consultations and testing. They went to the Avera transplant clinic in Rapid City.

“We go two or three days every month to Rapid City so we take care of all of our West river patients,” said Dr. Robert Santella.

Jane felt peace about the future.

“If they would have found anything with me that were, they were skeptical of, they were going to take me off the list,” said Beisner.

“And there are safeguards for people who donate a kidney if they ever get kidney failure, They have priority on the transplant list and they don’t have a typical five-year wait,” said Dr. Santella.

Avera belongs to the national kidney registry, the largest of its kind in the nation. Even if a donor isn’t compatible, they can donate to someone else, and their loved one can get a match in return through the registry.

“And the computer will line up a number of incompatible pairs, and different donors will trade,” said Dr. Santella.

The transplant took place at Avera McKennan in Sioux Falls.

“Feels good, she has had numbers go up a little bit so I had to have a little talk with my kidney one day make it behave,” said Beisner.

These women expect to be lifelong friends, joined by the bond of a kidney donated by one, and gratefully received by the other.

“Wonderful. It’s really a medical miracle,” said Dr. Santella.

Jane went home the second day after surgery. Stacey stayed in the hospital for four days and stayed close by to be monitored for three weeks before going back to Rapid City.

Avera offers resources regarding advance directives and end-of-life planning.

Additional resources are available to answer questions about organ donation and how to talk to family members about your choice.

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