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7:00 AM Thu, Dec. 13th

The ultimate gift: Prescott woman donates kidney to save stranger's life

Courtesy photo<br>
Kathleen Melvin, left, of Smyrna, Del., and Michelle Long of Prescott meet after Melvin underwent a transplant in which she received one of Long’s kidneys July 5 at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Delaware.

Courtesy photo<br> Kathleen Melvin, left, of Smyrna, Del., and Michelle Long of Prescott meet after Melvin underwent a transplant in which she received one of Long’s kidneys July 5 at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Delaware.

Michelle Long of Prescott is in the palliative care field, and works with people who are in pain or have other symptoms of serious and chronic illnesses.

Long subjected herself to a lot of pain by donating a kidney to save another woman's life.

However, Long, 47, has no second thoughts about donating the kidney to Kathleen Melvin, 58, of Smyrna, Del. They connected through MatchingDonors.com, and underwent the organ donation July 5 at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.

"It's such a fairly easy thing to do to really help somebody," Long said Thursday.

Long acknowledged having some complications from the surgery, while saying she does not want to discourage others from donating their organs.

"I have adhesions, scarring from previous surgeries, so they had to scrape those out," Long said.

Long said the hospital would have released her in two days if she did not have the adhesions, adding the surgical team placed her in a "really odd position" - shaped like a U - for hours.

"I have more pain in my back than I do in my incision area," Long said.

Long, a mother of four, said the pain will last for as long as a month. Meanwhile, she plans to return to her job Monday.

She said an ad for MatchingDonors.com popped up while she was online three years ago, and she decided to register.

On the first day she signed up as a potential donor, she saw Melvin's profile.

Melvin, a career science teacher, wrote: "As I write this profile, I am struck by the irony, because this is the second time that I have written a profile for a life-changing event. When I was in my early 20s, I was diagnosed with extreme endometriosis, and had to have a hysterectomy."

Melvin, who adopted a daughter because she could not have children, wrote that the endometriosis "grew back, blocked up my uterus, and, as a result, my kidneys became severely damaged. My kidney function has deteriorated to the point where I am in need of a transplant.

"I have been on the transplant list for over a year and a half, but because my blood type is B positive, the wait will be much longer than average wait times - if a kidney even ever becomes available."

Nineteen people die every day in the United States while waiting for kidney transplants, according to MatchingDonors.com, a nonprofit entity based in Canton, Mass. Most of them wait seven to nine years.

Fortunately for Melvin, Long responded to her plea by sending a message that read: "Kathy, I would love to be a donor for you - let's start the ball rolling."

Long gave Melvin her phone number. Long, a Phoenix native and veteran of the Marine Corps and U.S. Army, wrote on her own profile: "I'm in pretty good health, have never had any health issues, I don't smoke or drink and have never done any drugs. I look forward to being a match and meeting you soon!"

MatchingDonors.com began in January 2004 as an Internet-based service, and now has more than 500 patients with active profiles.

MatchingDonors.com does not pay donors. However, Long said the University of Maryland covered her expenses.

Melvin said on Monday, "My kidney levels are perfect. This (donation) is the most extraordinary thing anybody has done for me, for anybody."

She called Long a "wonderful, wonderful person - selfless."

Melvin said she will stay in touch with Long "absolutely. We are family."