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Three Richfield residents celebrate true gift of life

Posted: November 29, 2017

by Laura Straub


This holiday season, three Richfield residents are celebrating something special: the gift of life. As either organ donors or recipients, all are doing well and are ready to enjoy another Christmas with their families and friends.


Hereditary polycystic kidney disease affects Bill Jocek and many of his family members. After battling the disease for most of his life, it got to the point that his kidneys were shutting down.


“I went on dialysis on Easter of last year, and fortunately I was only on it for about three weeks before I got the call that I had a kidney,” he said. “I was at the Cleveland Clinic probably an hour after I got the phone call, that was about 6 in the evening, and I was there at 8 a.m. the following day to get the transplant.”


Since many of Jocek’s family members also suffer from kidney complications, getting a live donor was not possible. He had spent about 3 1/2 years on the Lifebanc donor list, when he received a kidney from a 52-year-old man who died of a heart attack in Indiana.


According to Jocek, the procedure took about eight hours.


“They had to remove a native kidney to make room for the new kidney, and it [the native] weighed 25 pounds,” said Jocek. “A normal kidney weighs about four tenths of a pound.”


It took his new kidney a little while to begin working, because of the time it had spent on ice coming from Indiana, but it was fully functioning within a week.


Although Jocek suffers from other health issues, he said that his new kidney is doing very well, with the help of anti-rejection medicine and plenty of fluids.


John Sikora found his kidney donor much closer to home. From about age 30, Sikora suffered from complications of diabetes and other hereditary health issues. 


“I was going to a specialist for years and it was progressively getting worse,” he said. “They told me I would eventually be on dialysis because there was no stopping it.”


At age 73, getting a donor from a transplant list is less likely, but a family member stepped up and offered to be a live donor.


“All three of my children offered to do it, but Melissa was the first one to go through the battery of tests to make sure you match everything, and it turned out to be a match,” said Sikora. Melissa, who had never as much as broken a bone, had stitches or undergone surgery was the one to give her father a kidney. She braved the blood work and went forward with the transplant without thinking twice. 


“The procedure went really well, the doctor said the kidney started working immediately after connecting it,” he said.


Although the procedures took place separately, each with a different surgical team, Melissa said her first visit after she woke up was to her dad’s room on the other side of her unit. And since the procedure took place about 2 1/2 years ago, father and daughter have recovered well. 


“We’re both doing really good,” said Sikora. “My daughter travels all over the world for the government, and I’m doing 1,000 percent better. I lost color when the kidney was failing, I was gray and now I’m bright and cheerful.”


Seeing her father’s recovery made it all worth it for Melissa.


“It’s a great feeling,” she said. “You never know what’s going to happen one day to the next but I know that I did something amazing and it was for my dad, and it makes me feel great.”


The two celebrate their special bond on the 20th of every month – the date the surgery took place – by going to a movie or dinner, just the two of them.


Cindy Farrell  shares a special bond with a baby named Mara Petrochello from Ashtabula, all thanks to a Facebook post.


Mara suffers from a rare metabolic disease called citrullinemia and needed a piece of a donor liver to be able to digest protein and grow. Her family has shared Mara’s entire health journey on its Facebook page, Mighty Mara’s Citrullinemia & Transplant Journey. Farrell stumbled across the post on the page of a friend of a friend.


“I saw the post and I was meeting all the requirements,” said Farrell. “I was the right blood type, I am healthy, I met the age requirement and I’m a nurse so I understand the medical information, so I thought why not get tested and sure enough everything worked out.”


Farrell is recovering well from the Oct. 24 procedure, and although she has to be content with complications in her lungs, Mara is able to ingest more than 10 times her past protein intake.


Mara has a long road to recovery, but Petrochello’s family is eternally grateful for Farrell’s gift. Although Farrell and the Petrochellos haven’t met in person, they message on Facebook regularly and are planning to get together once everyone is recovered.

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