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The best birthday present ever

Written by by Kara Steele. Posted in April

Rewind to Friday, July 2, 1999. It was a 100-degree, blisteringly hot day in Toledo. Kandy Takas was shivering under a blanket, unable to get warm.

 

Her mom, Pat, drove her to the emergency room at St. Charles Hospital, where a doctor told Kandy, “You are one sick young lady.” Her blood pressure was a dangerously high 240/140, and test results showed she had zero kidney function. Healthy kidneys are about the size of a fist, but Kandy’s kidneys had shriveled down to the size of grapes.

“The doctor said I showed up to the emergency room at the very end,” Kandy said.

She couldn’t believe it. Sure, she was fatigued, but she attributed that to her two-and-a-half-hour-round-trip work commute and to raising a toddler. A life-threatening disease certainly never crossed her mind.

Kandy was diagnosed with end-stage IgA nephropathy, and she immediately started dialysis. She endured that process every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday for four hours each time. Eventually, she was allowed to drop Thursdays.

She was put on the national transplant waiting list in January 2000. Since those were the days before cell phones, Kandy was given a pager and told she would be contacted that way if a potential match was found.

Kandy was walking through a mall on Sunday afternoon, October 8, when her pager went off. She found a payphone, dug through her purse, found a quarter, and called Mark at Life Connection of Ohio. Mark said a kidney was available, and she might be a match. Just as Mark uttered those words, Kandy’s three-year-old son, John, reached up and hung up the phone! Kandy frantically found another quarter in her purse and called Mark back. He said, “You hung up on me. You must not want this kidney very badly!”

That night, Kandy was given the good news—she was a match! The wait was over.

After one year, three months, and six days on dialysis, Kandy received a life-saving kidney transplant on October 9, 2000—the day before her 34th birthday. “It was the best birthday present ever,” Kandy said.

Kandy returned home four days after her transplant, and she has never looked back. The best part of the past 16 years for Kandy has been spending time with her son, who is now 19. “Our life is full and very busy,” Kandy said. “I’m so thankful for the gift of life. It allowed me to go back and be a mom and be here to watch my son grow up.”

Kandy and John lead the epitome of an active life. They have gone hiking, biking, rappelling, paintballing, and ziplining.

The only thing Kandy knows about her donor is that he was a generous man from Maryland. She wrote a letter to her donor family, but she has not heard back.

“It’s probably the hardest letter I’ve ever written,” Kandy said. “You’re ecstatic, but they are devastated. How do you temper your joy with their sorrow? The biggest thing you’re saying is ‘thank you,’ but how do you thank someone for giving you your life back?”

Kandy’s transplant journey inspired John to register as an organ, eye, and tissue donor when he was asked the question at the BMV. He has seen firsthand the power of donation. That Maryland man’s incredible gift has allowed him to have his mom in his life. And he said that is “pretty cool.”❦

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