News stories

Real-life superhero

Chapter leader donates kidney to stranger

 

Kathleen Kelly (standing, photo left), the chapter leader at PS 222 in Brooklyn,Miller PhotographyKathleen Kelly (standing, photo left), the chapter leader at PS 222 in Brooklyn, in the hospital after the transplant with recipient Denise Kyle, and at a recent get-together (photo right).

Kelly (back, left) and Principal Theresa Olivieri with PS 222 students on SuperhKelly (back, left) and Principal Theresa Olivieri with PS 222 students on Superhero Day, which was held in Kelly’s honor.   A UFT chapter leader donated her kidney to a complete stranger in October and with that selfless act, the mother of three saved the life of another mom.

Kathleen Kelly said a post about a woman who needed a kidney kept showing up in her Facebook feed early this year “until one day it hit me that giving her a kidney was something I should do.”

Today, Kelly is back in the classroom at PS 222 in Marine Park, Brooklyn, where she is a superhero to her students and her family. And Denise Kyle, after almost two years, is off five-day-a-week dialysis and looking forward to a long life watching her children, ages 7 and 9, grow up.

“What an amazing thing for her to do,” said Kyle. “I still can’t believe it. And now we’re family and in touch every day.”

Last May, just before she initiated the donation process, Kelly, age 35 and the mother of three daughters ages 8, 7 and 3, realized she had to get her family on board. To win over her reluctant and worried husband, Sebastian, she posed a tough question: “How would you feel if I were the one needing a kidney to stay alive?” When she told her daughters the story of the mother who needed a kidney, they agreed that someone should give her one. One child then popped up with the suggestion: “Why don’t you do it, Mommy?”

After that, the testing began. It looked like a match. Kelly’s doctors did further tests to make sure she was healthy enough to go forward.

Throughout the process, Kelly was warned not to contact Kyle, a woman she knew only through her Facebook story.

On July 17, the match was confirmed, and Kelly headed to Kyle’s house to tell her the good news. Kyle remembers answering the door that day and first wondering, “Who is this woman?”

In the months that followed, Kyle, who was diagnosed with kidney disease at 21 and had been waiting for a transplant for more than two years, said she kept asking Kelly if she was sure and leaving open the possibility that she could change her mind.

“I was worried for her and couldn’t believe it was really happening,” Kyle said.

Unable to turn to her family because of a long history of kidney disease, Kyle went on a transplant list in February 2015 after her kidney function dropped to 20 percent. She then turned to the Renewal Foundation in the search for a live donor. That contact with the foundation led to the post Kelly saw on Facebook.

Kyle and Kelly are both doing well after the Oct. 3 surgery and are in daily contact.

Kyle’s dream of being able “to throw the dialysis machine out the window” has come true.

And Kelly hopes her decision to donate a kidney and save someone’s life will teach her children and her students about caring for others.

“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” she said.

Her PS 222 colleagues were so moved by Kelly’s kindness that they organized a Superhero Day in her honor.

“The students realized that superheroes are not just fictional characters,” said teacher Jennifer Crowley, “but real people that you see every day.”

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