Friendship Now Bound By Organ Donation

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"Give" is the word meaning to transfer from one's own possession to another. "Giving" would be the actual transfer.


But this definition may not adequately describe the gift Payson's Jill Randall gave to her long-time friend, Jeany Hacker.


On Aug. 11, the two 28-year-olds entered Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix -- one to give a kidney, and one to receive. Surgery on Jill began at 8 a.m. and was over by noon. Jeany went under the surgeon's knife at 12:45 p.m and by 4:45 p.m. that day, family and friends knew the gift from Jill was working.


Jeany, an elementary school teacher who lives in Gilbert, suffered a complete failure of her kidneys on May 27 and immediately went onto dialysis. Three times a week she and another friend would spend 3 1/2 hours playing cards while an artificial kidney cleaned Jeany's blood, the job her failed kidneys could no longer do.


She joined a list of more than 39,000 folks awaiting transplants, and was told that it could take up to three years for her to receive a cadaver's kidney.


Knowing this, and that 1,998 kidney patients died last year while waiting for life-saving organ transplants, Jill offered one of her kidneys to her college buddy.


"I'm at a point in my life where I can," Jill said casually Wednesday.


It is a moment Jeany's husband, Tony, will not forget.


"(Two of) the happiest moments in my life (are) when Jeany called to tell me that you (Jill) would give her a kidney, a new life, (and) when Dr. Fabrega informed me that you were both going to be fine," Tony wrote to Jill in an e-mail message.


Jill and Jeany were roommates at Northern Arizona University, from which they both graduated in 1993.


"What Jill gave Jeany is the gift of life," said Dinky Townsend, Jeany's mother.


When the women came out of surgery on Wednesday, family on both sides breathed a sigh of relief.


"I was nervous the whole time. I just worried about both of them," Dinky said. "It came out perfect. If you could have seen Jeany before and after," she said, tears welling in her eyes. "It did just what Jill wanted. Jeany looks so good."


Jill's parents, Sally and Robert, were a combination of nervous and proud, Jill said, but she was able to calm many of their fears by taking her mother with her to the doctors in Phoenix for a thorough explanation of kidney donation.


"It was scary for me. I worried about her, but I felt it was wonderful that she was such a giving person," Sally said of her daughter. Her fears were tempered with the knowledge that her daughter was in excellent health.


One kidney is all that is needed to live a normal life, according to the Web site of the National Kidney Foundation. The Internet was one of the main resources Jill said she used to make her decision.


"I learned that a person can give a kidney and have the same life as before," she said, catching some rays by the Majestic Mountain Inn pool on Wednesday, just two weeks post-surgery. Jill is the manager of the motel.


One advantage for Jeany is that kidneys that come from living donors begin to function immediately after the transplant. Cadaver kidneys (donated from a person that died) may take several days or weeks before they begin to function normally, said the kidney foundation site.


Jeany was sent home a day early from the hospital because Jill's kidney went to work in her body so quickly, Jeany said.


Acceptable living donors are usually between 18 and 60 years of age and face many tests, the Web site said. After giving Jill all sorts of blood tests, a kidney test, an EKG and others, the transplant team approved her for the surgery.


"They are not going to take someone who is not really healthy," Jill said.


Jeany said she can expect her new kidney to work for up to 20 years, as long as she takes care of herself.


Jill is taking the quiet road to heroism, asking that friends, family and reporters focus on the continued need for kidney and organ donors. She was reluctant to even talk to the newspaper about what she had done.


"If she could have done it without anyone knowing about it, she would have," family member Pat Randall said, tears coming to her eyes at the thought of Jill's deed.


"She would like people to know how fast she recovered and how well she is doing," Sally said, adding that a week and a day after surgery Jill was back to work, managing the Majestic Mountain Inn.


"I'm almost back to normal -- a little tender -- but I feel really good," Jill said.

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