MAYWOOD, Ill. – Loyola University Medical Center is believed to be the first organization in the country, and perhaps the world, in which five employees have each donated kidneys to complete strangers with no strings attached. Two other employees have donated kidneys to casual acquaintances, also asking nothing in return.
The good Samaritan donors are known as “The Seven Sisters of Loyola.” Officials at two major organ transplant agencies say they have never heard of so many employees at a single company donating kidneys to non-relatives. The donors say they are seeking nothing more than to give others a second chance for healthy, productive lives.
The Seven Sisters were introduced at a news conference at Wednesday, April 27, in Room 190 (Tobin Hall) at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, 2160 S. First Ave., Maywood.
A spokesman for Gift of Hope, which coordinates organ and tissue donations for northern Illinois and northwest Indiana, said that what the Seven Sisters have done is most likely a first in the nation.
“I can’t say for certain. But, without a doubt I can say that it’s amazing that Loyola would have seven people who work at the hospital who have that kind of caring, concern and compassion for people who are suffering and waiting for an organ transplant,” spokesman David Bosch said.
Charlie Alexander, president of United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), said his organization, which maintains the national organ waiting list, hasn’t heard of such a feat, either nationally or internationally.
“We applaud the generosity of living donors and appreciate the life-changing difference they make for those awaiting an organ transplant,” Alexander said.
Dr. Paul K. Whelton, MB, MD, MSc, president and CEO of Loyola University Health System, said the Seven Sisters’ generosity “is just one of the many instances at Loyola in which our employees demonstrate their commitment to upholding our Catholic-Jesuit tradition of Magis, which challenges us to do more.” (By pledging to uphold Loyola’s Magis values, employees commit themselves to providing the highest level of Care, Concern, Respect and Cooperation in all areas of patient care.)
More than 110,000 patients are on waiting lists for organ transplants from deceased donors. Most are waiting for kidneys. Patients typically wait for years, and many patients die before organs become available.
Donations from living donors can significantly reduce the wait. However, many patients do not have family members who meet the medical conditions necessary for donation. But due to the generosity of good Samaritan donors, Loyola’s living-donor program has substantially reduced wait times for such patients.
A successful transplant triples the life expectancy of a kidney patient who had been on dialysis and dramatically improves the patient's quality of life.
“Dialysis drains your strength and energy. You don’t feel like doing much,” said James Love, 34, of Westchester, Ill., who suffered kidney failure from sickle cell anemia. One of the Seven Sisters, Barbara Thomas, donated her kidney to Love on Oct. 22, 2009.
“I thank God every day for the chance to go out and toss a ball with my son, or sit and talk with my daughter, and be able to do homework with them,” Love said. “That stuff is priceless, and she gave it all back to me.”
Thomas, 48, of Brookfield, Ill., is an administrative secretary in Loyola’s Kidney Transplant Program. Love was her tenant at the time of the transplant.
The six other Loyola Sisters are:
• Cristina Lamb, 46, a credentialing coordinator at Loyola, who donated to Robert Rylko, 22, of Rockford, Ill., on March 18, 2010. Lamb lives in Melrose Park, Ill.
• Dr. Susan Hou, 65, medical director of Loyola’s Renal Transplant Program, who donated to one of her patients, Hermelinda Gutierrez, in 2002. Hou lives in River Forest, Ill.
• Jodi Tamen, 47, a dental hygienist at Loyola, whose kidney was removed at Loyola and flown to California to a complete stranger, G. Murray Thomas, on April 8, 2010. Tamen lives in West Frankfort, Ill. Thomas is a poet and author of the soon-to-be published book, “My Kidney Just Arrived.”
• Dorothy Jambrosek, 46, administrative director of the Graduate Medical Education Program at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, whose kidney was removed at Loyola and rushed to another Chicago-area hospital to a complete stranger, a Chicago-area man, on March 4, 2011. Jambrosek lives in Woodridge, Ill.
• Jane Thomas, 47, a registered nurse in Loyola’s Lung Transplant Program, who donated to a complete stranger, Aaron Green, 38, of Bellwood, Ill., on Aug.12, 2010. Thomas lives in Villa Park, Ill.
• Cynthia Blakemore, 58, manager of Loyola’s Clinical Laboratory Department, whose kidney was removed at Loyola and flown to a complete stranger in Cornell, N.Y., Memerto Asuncion, 47, on Sept. 2, 2010. Blakemore lives in Montgomery, Ill.