Colleen Marshall discovers kidney problem after trying to donate to cousin

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When NBC4's Colleen Marshall tried to donate a kidney to her cousin, medical tests revealed something that may have saved her life.

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Update 12/13/19 from NBC4: Colleen’s surgery went well; she is home and resting comfortably. Wish her well during her recovery on her Facebook page.

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Nearly 100,000 people are on a waiting list for a kidney donation. Every day, 12 of them die waiting.

My cousin Karen is on that waiting list. I wanted to be a living donor, giving her one of my kidneys so she could end dialysis and have a normal, healthy life again. But, something unexpected happened when I was tested to be a living kidney donor.

Instead of me saving her, she is saving me.

See how NBC4 is sending cheer to Colleen while she’s recovering

Karen and I have shared a lot, from Easter baskets to backyard picnics. My father and her mother were brother and sister. There were eleven of them.

At family reunions these days, the cousins line up by age, with Karen and I proud to be near the younger end of the line.

I wanted the two of us to share something else. Of all the cousins, I emerged as the likeliest living kidney donor. But, the medical tests to clear me for donation uncovered something unexpected.

It’s not a pretty picture. A blockage has already cost me 40% of my left kidney’s function.

“There’s definitely a blockage there. You can see that narrowing,” said Dr. Ronney Abaza, the surgeon who will be operating on me. “So, we remove that segment and then we sew the two back ends together so that it has a nice open funnel.”

It sounds simple. In just a few days, Dr. Abaza will take the controls of a robot. Going through a single small incision, he will operate on my kidney.

“So, the traditional way to do this operation, again, before the era of minimally invasive surgery, would’ve been to have an incision like this, what we call a subcostal incision. Again, cutting through several layers of muscle, very painful, in the hospital for several days, maybe even a week,” said Abaza.

Robotic surgery has changed all that. Finding out now about my ailing kidney has saved me from so much more, like pain, infection, stones and loss of kidney function.

It also means I can’t be the one to save Karen.

“We don’t have enough organs for people who need them, so people are dying on a waiting list, waiting to get a kidney or another organ,” said Abaza.

Dr. Abaza has performed kidney transplants. He calls them the most fulfilling and satisfying kind of surgery.

“Immediately, they have a huge dramatic change in their life, from having to go to dialysis center three times a week and sit there for hours and just feeling crummy all the time because they are in kidney failure. They really feel like a million bucks right away. Their life changes 180 degrees as soon as they get a kidney transplant. So, it really is the best thing that somebody can do for another human being is to donate a kidney,” said Abaza.

You can follow Colleen’s progress and wish her well by following her on Facebook.

Tap here to learn more about becoming a living organ donor.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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