By Ed Runyan
So many complications got in the way of Joe Makosky, 56, of Champion getting a kidney transplant that he started to wonder if it would ever happen.
His faith in God and his daughter’s love got him through.
“It was a 51/2-year process for me. I thought it was going to be easy, and it wasn’t,” he said. “In waiting for a kidney, you have to be very patient. I found out it happens on His time line, not anybody else’s.”
The process began in 2010, when Makosky first explored the possibility of getting a kidney transplant. But things had to be put on hold while doctors treated a buildup of fluid between his chest and lungs.
The best donors are siblings, so the first option was to receive a kidney from his sister, Roseann. She was initially approved but was later eliminated as a donor when she was diagnosed with diabetes – the same disease that ruined Joe’s kidneys.
The next best option was to receive one from one of he and his wife Judy’s five children.
The best candidate was their youngest daughter, Jackie, who was 19 in 2013 when she first started getting tested to determine whether she was eligible. She’s 22 now.
She wasn’t eligible initially because her own kidney function was too low in May 2013. In the coming months, Joe started to receive kidney dialysis three days per week, four hours each time.
Jackie felt strongly enough about giving her father a kidney that she started to work very hard at improving her own health – with exercise and weight loss – so she would be deemed an acceptable candidate.
She didn’t want to ever have to wonder if there was something more she could have done to help her father survive, she said.
“The reason I decided to do it was I felt like I was his only option,” Jackie said, adding that she wanted to do whatever she could to “keep him with me.”
But several other complications cropped up during the next two years that threatened to prevent the surgery from taking place – amputation of one of Joe’s toes and Jackie getting pneumonia in early December 2015.
Finally Jackie and her father were cleared for surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. It took place Dec. 30, 2015.
Her recovery was better than doctors predicted. After enduring terrible pain for three days, not being able to walk for two weeks, and not being able to drive a car for two months, she says she’s back to normal now.
“Honestly, now, if I didn’t have the scars, I wouldn’t know I had the surgery,” she said.
Joe’s recovery was more challenging. He suffered a heart attack while on the operating able and another one 25 days after the surgery. He knew of the potential for complications because of his medical history, but it was a risk he was willing to take.
“I didn’t feel like I wanted to live my whole life on a machine,” he said of dialysis.
It was worth it for Jackie, too.
“I think a lot of people think it’s scary to donate a kidney, but in my mind, I didn’t have any choice,” she said. “I could see that he didn’t want to live the way he was living.”
Jackie said she’s been told that the kidney she gave her father will allow him to live without dialysis for 10 to 15 years.
“Those 10 years will be the most crucial in my life – getting married and having children,” she said. “The fact that he can be here for that. I needed him here for that. He’s seen his other daughter get married and his first grandchild being born. He’s seen so many miracles,” she said.
Jackie is philosophical about donating a kidney.
“It’s a very scary thing to consider, but we have two kidneys for a reason. We can live off of one,” she said. “Every person in my family can spend more time with him.”
Joe says his daughter has given him a great gift.
“I am so grateful she was able to do that,” he said. “She gave me a new life.”
Joe is looking forward this year to his first Christmas without dialysis. “Being able to do what I want instead of working around dialysis. This will be the first Christmas where I’ll be back to normal.”