Macon woman diagnosed with kidney failure gets surprise of her life

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MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) — A Macon woman will a kidney transplant undergo surgery at the end of January — one that she had no idea her donor was approved for.

Sylvia Harris was placed on the kidney transplant waitlist and said all she wanted was to be healthy again.

Sixty-one-year-old Sylvia Harris received a kidney failure diagnosis six years ago. Harris says she experienced none of the common symptoms of the disease: fatigue, swelling of the legs, and fluid buildup in the lungs.

“People can have advanced chronic kidney disease and still not have symptoms of kidney failure until their kidney function is very reduced,” said Dr. Christina Klein of Piedmont Transplant Institute in Atlanta.

For kidney transplant eligibility, doctors say the measurement of a person’s kidney — the Glomerular Filtration Rate — must rate below 20.

Harris says in 2015, that wasn’t her story.

“At that time you had to have 18 percent function to be on the list and I had 19 percent,” Harris said.

After denied placement on the transplant list the first time, doctors began treating Harris with medications to help her kidney function properly. She then fell sick again in 2019.

This time, medical officials accepted Harris to the transplant list.

“We have approximately 5,000 people waiting for a transplant in Georgia,” said Dr. Klein.

According to Piedmont Transplant Institute medical professionals, a recipient’s wait time depends on a person’s blood type.

The wait times for blood types

  • Blood type AB — about 4 to 5 years
  • Blood type A — about 5 to 6 years
  • Harris’s blood type — Type O, averages up to 9 years

Harris says that was devastating until she got the shock of her life. Family friend Monique Dancy offered to be Harris’ donor after nine months of vigorous tests and prayers. Dancy was approved-eliminating Harris’d name from the transplant list.

“It’s been a long journey, it feels like almost a year,” said Dancy.

Dr. Klein calls getting a living donor “the fastest way to get an organ transplant.” However, he says some people get priority points which places them higher on the waitlist.

Dr. Klein says patients on dialysis get one point every year on dialysis. She says previous organ donors and pediatric recipients also get moved up.

“Your total number of points determines your position on the waiting list,” said Dr. Klein.

Thankfully, Harris doesn’t have to worry about that as she awaits her surgery.