On the morning of Valentine’s Day in the ‘City of Brotherly Love’, when most people present their loved ones flowers, candy or some other token of affection, Paul Wagner has other plans for Gail Tomas. Wagner will give a total stranger, Gail Tomas one of his kidneys. They will check into Thomas Jefferson University Hospital on February 14, which also happens to be National Donor Day on that day, surgeons will transplant a kidney from Wagner to Tomas, who spends most her time on a dialysis machine. For the next few weeks both will be recuperating, first in the hospital and then at home. It’s hardly the most conventional Valentines Day celebration, but the couple has few complaints.
“Most people on Valentine’s Day, exchange cards, flowers, or maybe a box of candy. Very few people actually exchange bodily organs,” said Paul Wagner.
February 14, 2006, National Donor Day, honors those who have donated organs, tissues, marrow and blood to save the lives of others. It also honors the families of donors who have made the decision to allow organs of loved ones to give new life to recipients. In 2005 a total of 12,118 living and deceased donors gave organs and tissue for 23,520 transplantations.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania resident Gail Tomas wrote on MatchingDonors.com; “I am a vital 65 year old grandmother who loves her family more than life itself. I neither look nor feel my age and if it wasn't for my kidney problem, I believe that I would have at least 20 more years to live a productive life. When I was a child, they didn't have antibiotics, so my kidneys had to overwork in order to rid my body of infection. This ended up causing one of my kidneys to stop functioning; it became really small. With only one good kidney functioning most of my adult life, I got type 2 diabetes in my late 40s. When I found out about the diabetes, it was suggested to me to get a nephrologist. I have been placed on the national kidney waiting lists, but I was told that it will take over three years to find me a kidney, and my chances of surviving dialysis are not very good. My only chances of surviving are going to be given to me by the grace of God and the grace of an amazingly kind and generous person who wants to help me. I hope and pray every night that there is someone out there who wants to help me see my grandchildren grow and to fulfill the rest of the life that I know was meant for me to live. The gift of an organ donation is the most precious there is on this earth. I would be eternally grateful to someone who can answer my prayers.” Her prayers were answered by Paul Wagner who will donate his kidney to Gail Tomas on Valentines Day.
It’s ironic that Gail and her family searched the entire country, looking for a donor match, and ended up having a match that lived in the same state. Paul’s unselfish act of donating his kidney will save Gail’s life.
Gail’s donor, Paul Wagner from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania spends his life working as a Purchasing Manager for a large company in Philadelphia. When asked what he does when not working he responded, “My hobbies include tropical fish, computers, refinishing old furniture and anything Star Trek. I strongly believe that it is important to give back to the community that has given me so much”.
His profile read, “disease free, living in Philadelphia, German descent. Blood type O+. Willing to consider donation of kidney or marrow.”
When Paul was asked about how he first learned of MatchingDonors.com, he said, “I first learned of Matchingdonors.com from an online article in the New York Times, which provided a link directly to the site. I clicked on the site and entered "Philadelphia" into the search bar and that's how I found Gail. Her profile was titled "Desperately Needs Your Help to Live". Once I read Gail's biography I felt that I was already involved. She was no longer a number or statistic, but a real person and I felt a moral obligation to offer my help. This lady was someone's mother and grandmother. What if my mother or grandmother were in this situation? I would be praying for someone to help! If I ignored her need, I wouldn't be able to look at myself in the mirror”.
Their surgery will take place on Tuesday, February 14, 2006 at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. This will be the twentieth transplant done in the past year and a half between patients and donors who have found a match on MatchingDonors.com that has gone on to surgery.
MatchingDonors.com was launched in January of 2004 as an Internet service based in Massachusetts. Patients on transplant lists put their profiles on the website, and potential donors browse the site for a life they want to help save. Donors are not compensated, since it is against the law to have any financial benefit from organ donation.
Based in Canton, Mass., MatchingDonors.com is a nonprofit corporation with people based throughout the United States. Anyone interested in donating money to support MatchingDonors.com services can do so by calling Matchingdonors.com at 781-821-2204.