Daughter gives life back to mother
The Legacy Transplant Services' 500th living kidney donor is a powerful story about a bond between mother and daughter.
Thirty-six years after Lidia Lekakh developed gestational diabetes while pregnant with her first daughter, Yelizaveta, mom and daughter are resting comfortably in beds next to each other in the Legacy Good Samaritan Short Stay Unit. They are moments away from being escorted into the operating room where Yelizaveta, who now goes by Liza, will donate her left kidney to her mother.
Lidia is not only Liza’s mom, she is also her best friend. They live five minutes walking distance from each other, talk at least six times per day and see each other at least once. Liza recently moved her mom into her own home with a large backyard with chickens and dogs – something she never had growing up in Kiev, Ukraine or in New York where they previously resided.
The Lekakh’s moved to the United States in 1991 as refugees from Ukraine. The cross-continental move combined with having a second baby and taking care of her elderly parents took its toll on Lidia’s health and she was eventually diagnosed with kidney failure.
“She was too busy taking care of everyone else, she didn’t have time to take care of herself,” recalled daughter, Liza.
When Lidia started dialysis in 2012, Liza began to beg her mom to allow her to donate one of her kidneys.
Finally, after five years of begging, Lidia relented in December 2016. “I believe she changed her mind because she really had no way out. I told her, ‘I am doing this and I am already in the process of getting worked up. It’s not a question of if but when,” recalled Liza.
After Lidia finally agreed, Laurie Pharr, donor coordinator from Legacy Transplant Services, called to propose surgery dates and the first available happened to fall on Liza’s 36th birthday.
“Laurie asked if I wanted a different date but I said no way, this will be the best birthday present ever,” exclaimed Liza. “She gave me life so now I am able to give hers back to her.
A week later, Liza and Lidia are both on the road to recovery. Lidia is already able to do and eat things she wasn’t able to before she got a new kidney. Liza is also doing and feeling great and getting better every day.
Her message to anyone thinking about becoming a living kidney donor is clear “Similar to childbirth, donating my kidney has allowed me to experience the miracle of life in a new and amazing way,” said Liza. “Watching mom wake up and already feel better has turned any small pains I may have felt into a distant memories. All we feel now is pure joy and happiness!”
Liza is Legacy Transplant Services’ 500th person to have donated her kidney to someone facing kidney failure.
“Most times, our living donors know the person they are donating to, either a close relative or through church, school or work,” said William Bennett, M.D., medical director of Legacy Transplant Services. “We have also seen many anonymous living donors step forward and give the gift of life to a complete strangers. It is truly miraculous.”
Living kidney donations are preferred they generally work more quickly, better, and for longer than deceased donor kidneys. If you want to learn more or are interested in becoming a living kidney donor, please visit Legacy Transplant Services homepage.
Contact Megan Deisler with media-related questions.