(ANCHORAGE, Alaska) — A chance meeting with an old friend in a hallway at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage turned into a life changing encounter for retired medical officer Terri Teas.
Almost a year after her conversation with former co-worker Judie Wolfe, Teas learned that Wolfe had volunteered to donate a kidney to Teas.
For the past 10 years Teas’ kidney had been failing because of a congenital condition. “My kidneys were malfunctioning. … I became weaker and had to retire as a medical nurse very early,” Teas told ABC News.
Teas’ doctors told her she needed a new kidney. “Dialysis made me feel somewhat better, but it is not a cure,” said Teas.
Teas, who is in her early 60s, and Wolfe knew each other from years before, when they worked in the office of Dr. Louann Feldmann, who practiced family medicine.
“I had offered my kidney to Teas because I felt that it is the right thing to do,” Wolfe told ABC News.
The news that Wolfe was undergoing kidney-match screening to see if she could donate a kidney to Teas came as a surprise.
“We received a call one day from my husband’s co-worker, who was a kidney match, saying that the medical center no longer needed her kidney because they’d already found a match. This match was Wolfe. … I hadn’t known that Wolfe had been undergoing all this screening for the past year,” said Teas.
“When I heard the news, I had an emotional block, and we both thought we should wait until this happens. But I was very happy,” Teas’ husband, Howard Teas, a marine biologist who works for the state of Alaska, told ABC News.
Teas’ only son couldn’t donate his kidney, because while testing for organ compatibility, he learned he had kidney problems of his own.
Teas and Wolfe are in Seattle now preparing for Teas’ upcoming transplant surgery at Swedish Medical Center Oct. 8.
Dr. Marquis Hart, the director of the Swedish Medical Center’s Organ Transplant Program, will be performing the surgery on Wolfe. “The surgery is minimally invasive and will be done through a laparoscopy. … After two days, the donor can go home, while the recipient will stay in the hospital for five to six days,” Hart told ABC News.
“Even though I am a bit anxious, I am hopeful, and after I recover, I hope to spend a lot of time helping others with transplant issues,” said Teas.
Wolfe, on the other hand is “more than ready,” she said. “Emotionally, I am there and I want to go to surgery and get this done, and I want to go back home,” she said.
Both Wolfe and Teas are eager to share their story. “There are about 113,000 people waiting for organ transplant, and there are only 8,000 donors available. I want to tell people, please don’t hesitate to donate,” said Teas.
“I am an organ donor upon death and I urge everyone to do it,” said Wolfe.
“What we’re really up against in transplantation every year is the risk of people dying while they are waiting for an organ,” said Hart. “Seventeen percent of them die every year, and we need to raise awareness about organ donation. More and more, we are getting benevolent donors and a quarter of the donors are friends of friends,” said Hart.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio