Living Donation Success Story – Lonnie Reed and Laurel Valentino

Laurel Valentino and Lonnie Reed

Laurel Valentino:
My thoughts of donating a kidney began in 1999. My first attempt at donating was to someone I did not really know. I completed the blood work and was considered a match; however, in the end, another individual donated his kidney. The second opportunity to donate came from a friend. Her husband was in renal failure and she was not a match. I again offered to donate my kidney. When this gentleman began the process of getting on the transplant list, a thorough physical examination was performed and prostate cancer was discovered. He had to be treated for this and needed to wait five years for remission before he was eligible to receive a transplant. I told him that I would wait for this to happen.
Fast forward to Fall 2014, when I received the news that he is now on the transplant list…am I still interested? Although I was 61, I considered myself healthy and might be a good candidate. I was considered a match, and further appointments for me to undergo my own testing were made.
Sometime in October, I heard amazing and shocking news that my friend had just received a kidney. Evidently, there was a better match from someone who, upon death, was registered to donate his organs and the transplant was done immediately.
Being just a little upset at not having the opportunity to donate (but happy he received), I spoke to the surgeon. I explained to him that I have been thinking of doing this for 15 years, that I’m healthy and not getting any younger.
I was accepted to be a living donor in January 2015. June 23, 2015 was the day of my surgery. All I knew was that I would be donating to an age appropriate male. The surgery went well, and my donated kidney started working immediately. Even though I was minus one kidney, I truly felt no different. Lonnie Reed and I both indicated that we wanted to meet each other and one week post-transplant we had the opportunity to meet at the transplant center with our surgeons and transplant team. Over the past 3 ½ years, Lonnie and I regularly get together. I have had the opportunity to meet Lonnie’s family and extended family and even was invited to his daughter’s wedding. I truly consider him my family!
Lonnie Reed:
My journey with kidney disease began in 2003. At first, I was having uncontrollable high blood pressure and was given some of the strongest pressure pills to try and control it, but none were able to. My kidney function started getting worse and I was eventually told that I had end-stage kidney disease. Near the end of 2011, I had to start dialysis. There were two forms of treatment to choose from: peritoneal and hemo, and I chose to do peritoneal which required 10 hours of treatment seven days a week. I did this for almost four years.
Then, one day in 2015, I was told there was a living donor, and I was asked if I was still interested in a kidney transplant. Being nervous and afraid, I said yes knowing that I didn’t want to be on dialysis forever. The only person more nervous than me was my mother.
Laurel is a very special person in my life because she basically saved my life. When we finally met each other after the transplant, I think we hugged for ten minutes before we even spoke. We always will be friends and she will always be a part of me.
To learn more about being a living organ donor and “sharing your spare”, please visit www.kidneyla.org/living-donors.

Charity Name
National Kidney Foundation of Louisiana, Inc.
Photo Caption
Laurel Valentino and Lonnie Reed at the 2018 New Orleans Kidney Walk
Photo Credit
Tunney Barrett