CARMINE GALASSO/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Jennifer Carrino, left, and cousin Nina Walsh showing off their surgery scars. Nina donated a portion of her liver to her older cousin, likely saving her life.
Over the last year, Jennifer Carrino had come back from the brink of death, survived internal bleeding and spent weeks in intensive care. Then came the hard part: asking her cousin for a part of her liver.
In April, doctors told Jennifer that without a transplant she probably had a year to live. Jennifer, 37, was already on transplant waiting lists in two states, but it was going to take too long, they said. She needed to think about a living donor.
Jennifer turned to her younger cousin, Nina Walsh, a slip of a woman with an outsized sense of generosity.
She asked her to consider giving up part of her healthy liver. The procedure, pioneered 20 years ago, pushes the ethical boundaries of medicine because it goes against a basic tenet of medicine to “first do no harm.” If she agreed, her cousin — a perfectly healthy 27-year-old — would undergo risky abdominal surgery. But she might save Jennifer.
Though each is an only child, the two women grew up in Hawthorne like sisters under separate roofs. Each was christened at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, where their grandparents were married 65 years ago. All of them live within a mile of one another: the grandparents in a double-decker with Jennifer’s parents; Nina with her parents a few blocks away, and Jennifer and her husband one street over.