MARLBOROUGH, Mass. — Two women who met in a Target parking lot are home recovering and spreading awareness about organ donation after a successful kidney transplant.
Gail Weisberg and Debbie Munley, who were complete strangers until last year, underwent the procedures at Massachusetts General Hospital last month. Munley, the donor, returned home two days later, while the Weisberg, the recipient, endured two hospital stays, finally returning home in good health last week.
Boston 25 News caught up with the pair Wednesday, as they bonded at Weisberg’s home, both recovering well and grateful.
“Debbie has been an angel, a life-saver and a gem to me. And she’ll always be a part of me,” Weisberg said.
Last summer, Munley was leaving Target in Marlborough when she saw Weisberg’s sign on her car in the parking lot pleading for someone to donate a kidney. Without hesitation, Munley approached Weisberg and offered to help.
“To have a job, to have my husband working, to have a house, to have two grown girls – my husband just got a good health report from his prostate cancer… I just was very fortunate,” Munley said of her mood that day as she exited the store. “And I saw her car with the sign on it, and I said, ‘I think that that’s something that I want to do. Not only can I do it, I want to do it.’”
Munley got tested and was a match. The news could not have come at a better time for Weisberg, who had been on the kidney donor list for about two years, surviving on nightly home dialysis treatments.
But in February, on transplant day, Munley’s anesthesiologist discovered a potential heart issue. The medical team canceled the surgeries, and the women returned home from the hospital disappointed but not without hope.
Further testing would find Munley was in fact healthy enough to give her kidney to Weisberg, and, on May 3, she did.
“My miracle walked back in,” Weisberg said. “I couldn’t believe her family and she still wanted to do it after what we went through. And it’s made such a difference in my life.”
Munley was recognized by the Boston Celtics as one of the “Heroes Among Us,” an award presented by the Mass State Lottery, during a playoff game last Friday. Thousands of fans chanted her name.
Munley’s gift was life-saving for Weisberg, but also life-changing for herself. For what she gave away, she said she has gained far more.
“I’m going to go on with my life, and, in six months, I’m not going to have pains, my scars will be gone, but knowing that I’ve done that is going to always be with me,” Munley said.
Munley said she is making it her mission to raise awareness about the living donor program.
“If anybody is contemplating this, it’s such an easy recovery,” said Munley who returned to work Wednesday. “I have been able to bounce back in just four weeks, and it has been a really easy transition.”
To inquire about becoming a living donor through Mass General, click here: Massachusetts General Hospital Transplant (mghlivingdonors.org).
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