Kidney recipient recovering; wait was relatively short
Joan Joanou of Prescott Valley said her kidneys dropped to 19 percent capacity this past spring, and would have undergone dialysis if they had dropped to 17 percent.
She entered a donor list May 31, and was fortunate that a match arrived in time for her to undergo a transplant Aug. 31. A kidney became available from a person who died in a fatal accident, according to her husband, Martin.
"It's amazing" the organ became available so quickly, said Joan Joanou, who is recovering in a casita on the campus of the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale. "I have three kidneys now."
Would-be kidney recipients can wait as long as five years for a donated organ, depending on blood type, said Melissa Blevins, a registered nurse who is operations administrator at the transplant center and ventricular assist device (VAD) program at Mayo. The VAD device replaces a failing heart.
However, she stated via email a kidney can arrive as quickly as a day, and would-be recipients must report to the hospital within four hours.
The clinic performs 250 organ transplants a year, and has the 10th-largest kidney transplant program in the country, Blevins said.
The Mayo Clinic is one of five transplant centers in the state, with four being in the Phoenix area, said Kris Patterson, spokeswoman for the Donor Network of Arizona in Phoenix.
As of Aug. 24, 2,319 people in Arizona waited for organ donations, with kidneys accounting for 1,750 of that total, Patterson said.
Joanou said her donated kidney is a "100 percent match."
Joanou, who has taught martial arts for 12 years at the YMCA in Prescott, said she first noticed problems about five years ago. She said she lacked energy and felt bloated.
"No matter how much you exercise, you don't lose weight," she said.
Joanou said at least 30 members of her church offered to donate kidneys to her after doctors at Mayo diagnosed her.
She is recuperating at the casita for at least a month, and her mother-in-law, Emma Thomas of Prescott, is staying with her.
"We have clinic every day here at the Mayo where they will take her lab work and adjust her medications," Thomas said Thursday.
Thomas said Joanou spent several hours Wednesday in the emergency room at Mayo because she was nauseated. Joanou takes three anti-rejection medications twice a day.
While Joanou is recuperating from her procedure, Kathleen Melvin, 58, of Smyrna, Del., said she is "doing great" nearly three months after Michelle Long of Prescott donated a kidney to her. Melvin underwent her transplant July 5 at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.
"I'm back at work," said Melvin, a career science teacher. "I'm not back to normal, but I'm almost there," she added with a laugh.
"I'm not taking any blood-pressure medication any more because the kidneys are working so well," Melvin continued.
For more information about organ donations, log onto www.donatelifeaz.org, or call (800) 943-6667.
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