This Valentine’s Day holds a special meaning for husband and wife, Dennis and Heather Haley. The couple met on Match in 2005, and now Dennis has a renewed perspective on the phrase, “you complete me,” after Heather recently became his living kidney donor. They are celebrating that extraordinary gift this year in honor of National Donor Day, which also is held each February 14.
After marrying in October 2006, Heather and Dennis’ commitment to “in sickness and in health” was put to the test when Dennis’ kidney function got progressively worse due to his diabetes, putting him on the national transplant waiting list. In Pennsylvania, more than 6,000 people await a viable kidney for transplant, according to the Organ Procurement & Transplantation Network.
While Heather was an organ donor on her driver’s license, she hadn’t really considered the practical implications of living donation. Nationally, living kidney donors make up about 31% of transplants. With the choice of dialysis or transplant, Heather knew this was something she had to do. After comprehensive pre-transplant screening, she was determined to be a good kidney donor match for her husband.
Heather and Dennis had their kidney donor and transplant surgeries at AHN’s Allegheny General Hospital in June 2020 and will be celebrating their second kidney anniversary later this year. Currently residing in Whitehall, PA, Heather, now 54-years-old, and Dennis, 56-years-old, are parents to three children ages 19, 22 and 26. As part of the couple’s early retirement plan, they started a small business, Hot Diggity Doggs and Mobile Catering, in which they donated 100% of their tips to the Center for Organ Recovery & Education in their first year. Heather and Dennis enjoy sharing their testimony and encourage others to consider becoming an organ donor. To sign up, visit your local DMV or registerme.org/AHN.
“Kidneys are the most needed organ for transplant in the United States—with about 90,000 patients on the waiting list nationally. Living kidney donation provides patients with an option that may expedite their access to a life-saving transplant much sooner than waiting for a deceased-donor match to become available,” Kalathil Sureshkumar, MD, Medical Director of the Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Program at AHN. “Receiving a kidney from a living donor also positions the recipient for better health outcomes in the near- and long-term.”
Allegheny General Hospital has the best one-year survival rate and transplant rate among adult kidney transplant programs in Pennsylvania, according to the latest data from the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR). The hospital is one of 19 adult kidney transplant programs in Pennsylvania. A multidisciplinary team of caregivers at AGH, including physicians, nurses, transplant coordinators, dietitians, social workers, pharmacists, and others collaborate to ensure high-quality, comprehensive care at every stage of a kidney transplant patient’s journey.
In addition to kidney transplantation, AGH is a center for heart, liver and pancreas transplants. In 2021, the hospital performed nearly 190 solid organ transplants, the highest in more than 30 years. AGH also has a partnership with Johns Hopkins Medicine for lung transplantation, providing western Pennsylvania residents with enhanced access to one of the country’s top programs. To learn more about AHN’s transplant program, visit AHN.org.
About the Allegheny Health Network:
Allegheny Health Network (AHN.org), a Highmark Health company, is an integrated healthcare delivery system serving the greater Western Pennsylvania region. The Network is composed of 14 hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, Health + Wellness Pavilions, an employed physician organization, home and community based health services, a research institute, and a group purchasing organization. The Network provides patients with access to a complete spectrum of advanced medical services, including nationally recognized programs for primary and emergency care, trauma care, cardiovascular disease, organ transplantation, cancer care, orthopedic surgery, neurology and neurosurgery, women’s health, diabetes, autoimmune disease and more. AHN employs approximately 21,000 people, has more than 2,500 physicians on its medical staff and serves as a clinical campus for Drexel University College of Medicine and the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine.