Godmother gives lifesaving gift

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The focus of attention at an unusual going-away party Saturday did not make an appearance.

That's because the kidney's actual "coming out" was not scheduled until Monday, the day Eileen Pistelli , 47, of Pleasant Hills, donated a kidney to her godson, Anthony Lucking, 25, of Bethel Park.

"After the transplant, I'll be his fairy godmother," Ms. Pistelli said.

Mr. Lucking, the son of Maureen and Jon Lucking of Bethel Park, is recuperating and doing well after the transplant at UPMC Montefiore.

The festive "Kidney Going-Away Party" at Bahama Breeze in Robinson attracted 24 family members who wore Kelly green "Donate Life" bracelets in recognition of the need for donors for lifesaving transplants.

"Across our country, we face a shortage of donors and an urgent need for help. We must respond with the spirit of generosity that has always defined our national character," President Barack Obama said in a proclamation declaring April 2010 as National Donate Life Month.

At age 18, Mr. Lucking was diagnosed with Henoch-Schonlein purpura, or HSP, a form of blood vessel inflammation that results in a rash, stomach pain and, in his case, the locking of his hands, elbows, feet and joints. "It was like an acute arthritis attack," he said.

Over the past seven years, it led to other problems, such as high blood pressure, migraine headaches and kidneys functioning at 13 percent of capacity. When kidneys function at 10 percent, dialysis is required.

As word spread of his need for a kidney, many volunteers, including his parents and brother Nick, came forward. But they were not compatible.

While Mrs. Pistelli and her sister, Mary Kay Paul of Peters, were both deemed suitable donors, Mrs. Pistelli was the better of the match, and she opted to proceed.

The importance of donating first hit home for Mrs. Pistelli in 1991 when her father, now deceased, underwent a liver transplant from a cadaver when the procedure was in the early stages.

"There was a family somewhere who made that decision [to donate], and they at least gave him a chance. I thought if I could ever do it, I would," said Mrs. Pistelli, a registered nurse at Allegheny General Hospital.

According to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, established by Congress under the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984, 285,466 kidney transplants have been performed nationwide since 1988, with 18,881 in Pennsylvania.

Of those, living donors accounted for 99,522 transplants nationwide and 4,857 in Pennsylvania.

As a donor, Mrs. Pistelli said, she will have 80 percent to 85 percent kidney function, "which is adequate for a healthy, normal life."

She added, "It's a privilege for me to do this and give a great kid I've known my whole life a chance. "I know everything will work out right, and if we can raise awareness for others to donate, that is a bonus."

Mr. Lucking works as a loan administrator for PNC Bank Downtown and plans to return to work by summer.

He hopes to resume a normal life but realizes that the HSP, although not active, will never completely go away. He also understands his limitations when it comes to expressing his gratitude to Mrs. Pistelli.

"There is nothing you can do to repay someone for saving your life," he said.

Margaret Smykla, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com .


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