The Gift of Life

 

Beth Williscroft is doing well with the kidney donated to her by her husband, Donald.

Beth Williscroft is doing well with the kidney donated to her by her husband, Donald.

By JOANNE L. PAPAIANNI

Four years after receiving one of her husband’s kidneys, a Bradley Beach woman is doing well and calling the entire episode “a miracle.”

Beth Williscroft, 57, was a healthy 50-year-old woman when a rare one in a million person disease, Goodpasture syndrome,(GPS) took hold and caused her kidneys to shut down completely.

The disease is a rare autoimmune disease which causes the body to attack itself.

Williscroft first went to see her doctor because she had a sinus infection and also felt like she had the flu.

In short time she learned it was not so simple and soon after lost all kidney function, leading to three years of dialysis.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, GPS can last anywhere from a few weeks to two years. The five-year survival rate is 80 percent and fewer than 30 percent of people with Goodpasture syndrome will suffer long-term kidney damage requiring dialysis.

At the time of her diagnosis Williscroft had just started a new job at the Division of Motor Vehicles but was forced to quit.

“It wipes you out,” Williscroft said of dialysis.

She and her doctors at Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center then began a search for a kidney donor.

But even though she had a common blood type, B positive, Williscroft said because of all the antibodies in her blood caused by the disease, finding a donor was next to impossible.

All of her relatives agreed to be tested, as well as neighbors and friends, but none were deemed suitable.

She asked about her husband Donald donating but he was taking Coumadin at the time for a thick blood disorder.

When the team at Robert Wood Johnson retested him, they found that he did not have the disorder after all and he stopped taking Coumadin.

At that time the kidney team at Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center told her about a group at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in California where they would desensitize or “clean” her blood of the antibodies and allow Donald to become a donor.

In California she also learned that Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City also performed the desensitization therapy and so the couple traveled back east.

After several tests over six months doctors at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital gave Donald approval to donate a kidney.

Williscroft had the transplant surgery on Feb. 27, 2014 at Robert Wood Johnson.

“They transplanted us, it was a miracle,” she said.

Although Williscroft feels well, she is is unable to work.

“I take a lot of medications to suppress my immune system and I have to get tested every two months,” she said.

This month the couple, who have six children ages 20 to 37, also celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary.

“Christmas is pretty crazy at our house,” she said.

Williscroft also wants to thank an anonymous donor who offered a kidney when the first article about her surgery appeared in The Coaster several months before her transplant.

“I never found out who it was, but somebody offered to be a donor and I want to send my thanks,” she said.

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