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Rachel Keller

Mother, daughter team up to give the gift of life

Douglasville resident Rachel Keller knows all too well how dangerous polycystic kidney disease (PKD), a life-threatening genetic disease creating multiple fluid-filled cysts in the kidneys, can be. Her mother died of the disease in the 1970s and now Keller, her daughter, and her granddaughter have been diagnosed with PKD as well.

When the disease progressed enough that her doctor, Gary Wollam, M.D., felt it was time she pursued a kidney transplant at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, Keller’s long-time friend and, at one point, neighbor Cherrie Glover (pictured above with Keller) came to the rescue. She and her daughter Leigh decided to get tested to see if they could be living donors and both turned out to be a match.

“I’ve been friends with Cherrie for 33 years – our children grew up together and are friends as well,” said Keller, who was the 3,000th transplant recipient at Piedmont Atlanta. “I worked with Dr. Wollam to stay off dialysis by adjusting my diet and watching my blood pressure. When he told me it was time to think about a transplant, I was so grateful to have friends willing to be tested.”

Doctors at Piedmont Transplant Institute determined Glover would be the best match for Keller. The hope is that Glover’s daughter Leigh might be able to donate to Keller’s daughter in the future. “I knew about Rachel’s condition and I knew people who experienced kidney disease usually undergo dialysis and sometimes transplants, but I thought the transplant had to be from a deceased donor,” said Glover. “I knew you could check the organ donor box on your driver’s license, but I had no idea living donation was an option until my daughter told me about it and asked if I wanted to get tested with her.”

Kidneys are the most common organs donated by living donors. Of the kidneys transplanted at Piedmont Atlanta, approximately half are from living donors like Glover. “Living organ donation has become the best option for those needing kidneys,” said Miguel Tan, M.D., the transplant surgeon who performed Keller’s surgery. “The number of living organ donors has risen to more than 6,000 per year, and one in four of these donors isn’t biologically related to the recipient.”

Currently, there are nearly 3,500 people in the state of Georgia waiting for a kidney. “I want people to know that there is a large need for living organ donors,” said Glover. “It doesn’t take much time out of your schedule and my quality of life has not changed a bit. I feel physically great and mentally rewarded. Organ donation is a wonderful thing to do for someone.”

For more information about living organ donation and transplant services, visit Piedmont Transplant Institute.

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