Donna Martineau is undergoing a kidney transplant surgery today. A close friend, Jeanette Smith, is donating one of her kidneys and both were expected to come through their surgeries by late today.
"I just got the call and they said it was a go for Wednesday," Donna said last week. A big smile came from her friend, who is donating a kidney.
"It's good to know and have a time which is set for 7 a.m.," Jeanette said. Jeanette smiled and she and Donna and a few or their friends at in the VFW talked about the surgery last week.
"First off, I want to thank all the people who donated money to help me during my recuperation. My friends held a Poker Run Benefit in September to raise money because I will be out of work and the money will help me get during the few months of recuperation," Donna said. "I really appreciate everyone's help."
The benefit put on by her friends and the VFW membership, collected some $8,500. Her friends had T-shirts made with the names of the first 70 contributors who first gave $50 to the benefit. And since then, there have been many more people who have also given.
Donna said she has been undergoing kidney dialysis for a year and it was at that time prior to the dialysis that doctors discovered that she had only one kidney.
"They told me the other kidney had not grown and was not doing anything to help my body and that the one kidney I had was tired and was not able to clean the toxins out of my blood. But before that I didn't know I had only one kidney," Donna said.
A "port" was inserted in her chest for the dialysis and Donna said they are only supposed to be used for six months, but the port has been in for about a year. They told me I would soon have had to have a port put in my arm," she said.
Jeanette Smith, who is also undergoing kidney removal surgery, said she decided to have the tests performed because she once had a girlfriend who passed away with the disease and she decided that if she could help someone she cared for, she would do it, if she was a match. Little did she know the person she would help would be one of her best friends.
"How can you not help someone like Donna? She found out that she had only the one kidney and she has been going through dialysis for a year. I am glad to give up one of my kidneys. They said I was a match and my health is good," she said.
Donna's husband, who everyone calls "Papa Bob" was unable to a donor because of medical problems.
She said her mother and father were going to stay at her home while she is in the hospital and later recuperating to help out her husband and their one child
Donna said dialysis was three days a week and three hours at each visit.
"You get used to it and I relaxed and read and I have even fallen asleep," Donna said. "But it does take a lot of time out of your week to go through."
The surgery is expected to last four hours and is being performed at the Gulf Coast Kidney Center on Daniels Parkway. Both were to be admitted on Tuesday night.
"Donna's going to be out for recuperation much longer than I will be," Jeanette said.
The surgery to receive the kidney will cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollar, according to Donna, who says she has insurance that hopefully will cover everything.
"They told us that we both will be in the same operating room at the hospital. Our beds will be side by side and once they remove the kidney from Jeanette, it will be only a couple of seconds, before it will be put into my body," Donna said.
Then after the surgery, Donna will be sent to ICU to recuperate and be observed while Smith will be assigned a room in the hospital. Donna will take longer to heal than her friend.
Terry Daugherty, the VFW's post commander, said everyone was pulling for Donna.
"So many members and friends donated, that it makes you really feel good for her. We take care of our people here at the VFW, Daugherty said. "We have 260 members and we all are praying for them today. It's a heart-felt thing for a friend to donate a kidney to another friend."
"I really want to thank the VFW Post 4174 and its members," Donna said.
Two other close friends who were sitting down with Donna during the interview at the VFW were Belinda Farris and Jaime Campese. They all are members of the VFW and both helped to raise money for their friend.
"We and others were her support group," one of the women said.
Donna said she wanted to also thank the American Legion and its Riders Motorcycle Club and the posts at the beach.
A living kidney from a donor is always the best way to have a transplant. While many people donate their organs after their death, one of the women said it was her understanding that a live transplant is always better for the recipient's recovery.
Donna said she was "nervous and scared," but knows she will be okay after the surgery is performed.
"To have such good friends and to be a member of such a great VFW lodge is wonderful," she said. "There are just so many people who donated their money to help me afterwards and for that I will always be grateful," Donna said.