Family raises awareness of organ donation
Thursday, March 31, 2011
By Margaret Smykla | Pittsburgh Post - Gazette
A year after donating a kidney to her cousin's son, Eileen Pistelli said she feels "absolutely fine."
"Unless I had these little marks on my belly, I wouldn't have known it was done," she said of the surgery.
"I feel absolutely no different," said the Pleasant Hills woman, 48.
The recipient of her kidney, Anthony Lucking, 26, of North Strabane, is doing well, too.
To increase awareness of the need for organ donors, and to provide money and other support for financially strapped transplant patients, Mrs. Pistelli and her sister, Mary Kay Paul, of Peters, began the Pennsylvania Chapter of Second Chance at Life in September 2010.
A basketball fundraiser to benefit the nonprofit charitable will be held at 8 p.m. Saturday at Thomas Jefferson High School, 310 Old Clairton Road, Jefferson Hills.
The game will pit the Pittsburgh All-Star Footballers Basketball Team -- comprising active Pittsburgh Steelers players -- against Thomas Jefferson student alumni.
"I want to get it out that this can be done, and you can be healthy, all while drastically helping someone else's life," Mrs. Pistelli said.
The date was chosen because April is National Donate Life Month.
At age 18, Mr. Lucking was diagnosed with Henoch-Schonlein purpura, or HSP, a form of blood vessel inflammation that results in a rash, stomach pain, and, in his case, the locking of his hands, elbows, feet and joints.
Over the next several years, it led to other problems, such as high blood pressure, migraines, and kidneys functioning at 13 percent of capacity. Ten percent usually results in dialysis.
As word spread of his need for a kidney, there were many volunteers, including his family: his parents, Maureen and John, and brother, Nick -- but they were not compatible.
While Mrs. Pistelli and Mrs. Paul were deemed suitable donors, Mrs. Pistelli was the determined to be the better match.
On April 19, 2010, Mrs. Pistelli, a registered nurse at Allegheny General Hospital, donated her kidney to Mr. Lucking, a PNC Bank loan administrator, at UPMC Montefiore.
At the time, she commented that in saving her godson's life, she became his "fairy godmother."
In the days that followed, Mr. Lucking presented her with a snow globe containing a fairy. "To my fairy godmother," reads the inscription.
An unanticipated consequence of the procedure, said Mrs. Pistelli, is realizing how much she means to family and friends who showered her with love and attention throughout the experience.
"People always tell me I gave so much, but I got back so much more than I gave," she said.
Game tickets cost $7 for all ages, and can be purchased at the high school, at the door prior to the event, or by emailing Mrs. Paul at email@example.com. For more information about the organization, or to donate, visit www.pennsylvania.secondchanceatlife.org.