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Former co-workers reconnect via social media and become ‘kidney sisters’

Robbie Turner was only 28 years old when she was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease — a genetic disorder that causes clumps of cysts to form in the kidneys, reducing their function over time. She knew she'd need a kidney transplant one day, and for many years, Turner and her husband thought he would be her kidney donor as he'd been approved as a perfect candidate.

Then Turner's husband was diagnosed with cancer, and suddenly the couple was grappling with a cancer diagnosis and the need to identify a new kidney donor. Turner had kept her health condition private for years, but now that she needed to find a kidney donor fast, she broke her silence and turned to social media. A recent Stanford Health Care blog explains:

[A co-worker] created a Facebook page, 'A Kidney for Robbie Turner,' and uploaded videos of Turner telling her story. By casting her net beyond the people in her immediate social circle, Turner had 12 individuals come forward to be donors. One was a former co-worker, Nona Reid, who still lived in the Dallas area. She and Turner had lost touch for more than 15 years, but had recently reconnected via Facebook.

“I was the number one match, but the only one who lived out of state,” Reid said. She flew to California for testing and evaluation and was approved as a kidney donor for Turner.

On March 22, Turner and Reid were taken into surgery. Marc Melcher, MD, a Stanford Health Care transplant surgeon, performed both of their kidney surgeries. By the end of the day, Turner had a new, healthy kidney.

“I am extremely blessed to have Nona as a friend and I’m grateful and awed by her gift of life for me,” Turner said after the surgery. “She is my ‘kidney sister.’ I will take the best care of this kidney as if I was taking care of her.”

Previously: Transplants for patients with disabilities: One mom’s storyAre donor hearts getting wasted? and Moving the needle on organ donation
Photo courtesy of kidney donor Nona Reid (left), shown with kidney recipient Robbie Turner (right)

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