Woman to donate kidney to save her sister’s life

Pittsburgh, Penn., Jan. 10, 2013 – Growing up, sisters share many things—rooms, clothes, friends, secrets. But these sisters will share a lifelong bond that will literally save a life.

In 2007, after the birth of her third child, Geri Whalen, 33, learned she had developed kidney disease. Although she has no family history of this illness, she has battled diabetes since she was 9. Doctors say a kidney/pancreas transplant is essential to her survival.

Upon learning of her sister’s need for a transplant, Dana Christner, immediately stepped up to help. Without giving it a second thought, she knew she had to undergo testing to see if she could be the donor to save her sister’s life.

Thankfully, Christner was a match, and the surgery will take place on Jan. 16. After recovering from her kidney transplant, which is the biggest hurdle because there is such a high demand for kidney donors, Whalen will be added back to the transplant waiting list in hopes of receiving a new pancreas.

The average kidney transplant costs approximately $250,000, and a pancreas transplant costs more than $285,000. And that’s only the beginning. Even with health insurance, she faces significant expenses related to the surgery. For the rest of her life, she will need follow-up care and daily anti-rejection medications. Post-transplant medications are very pricey, and they’re as critical to her survival as the transplant itself.

To overcome these financial challenges, Whalen and her family turned to the National Foundation for Transplants (NFT) for assistance. NFT is a nonprofit organization that helps transplant patients raise funds to pay for medical expenses.

“It’s so wonderful that Dana is the perfect match and so willing to jump in and save Geri’s life,” Claire Prince, NFT fundraising consultant. “I know Geri wants nothing more than to be with her three children for many years, and at NFT, we want to help her do just that. We want them to raise the necessary funds so she can focus on her family and her health, not the medical expenses.”

Friends and family are stepping into help with the transplant costs by hosting a fundraiser at Del’s Bar & Ristorante, 4428 Liberty Avenue in Pittsburgh, on Thursday, Jan. 24 beginning at 5 p.m.

For a $10 cover charge, there will be a wing, pizza appetizers and pasta bar, along with a silent auction and drinks served by guest bartender Jennifer LaBella. All proceeds, tips and donations will go to NFT in Whalen’s honor.

For more information, please contact Jennifer LaBella at 412-860-8805 or jjlabella@verizon.net.

To make a donation in Whalen’s honor, please visit www.transplants.org and select Find an NFT Patient. If you prefer to mail your contribution, please send your gift to the NFT Pennsylvania Transplant Fund, 5350 Poplar Avenue, Suite 430, Memphis, TN 38119. Be sure to write “in honor of Geri Whalen” in the subject line.

About NFT
NFT is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization based in Memphis, Tenn. that has been helping transplant patients overcome financial obstacles since 1983. NFT provides fundraising expertise and advocacy to transplant patients by organizing fundraising campaigns in the patients’ own communities. In the past 29 years, NFT’s fundraising campaigns have generated nearly $60 million to assist patients. NFT annually assists more than 2,500 transplant candidates and recipients nationwide. For more information about NFT, please call 800-489-3863 or visit www.transplants.org.