Christy Albaugh will give her 24-year-old adopted son, Tim, a new life today.
Albaugh, 48, of Placentia is donating one of her kidneys to her son so he can survive without dialysis.
“As a mom, I couldn’t imagine not doing it. While I didn’t give him life the first time, now I have that chance,” she said. “To find out that he and I were a match was miraculous for me.”
The surgery is set for this afternoon at Western Medical Center-Santa Ana, where 233 transplant operations have been performed since 1988. Dr. Garo M. Tertzakian, a transplant surgeon and director of the hospital’s kidney transplant program, will lead the team.
Registered nurse Lorrie Gibson, the center’s transplant coordinator, said 30 to 40 transplants are done each year at the hospital.
Gibson said finding donors is difficult and that the average wait is two years, though sometimes it takes as long as four years. More than 35,000 people nationwide are waiting for kidney transplants, she said, and only 10,000 patients a year actually have the surgery. The waiting list at Western Medical Center has 85 names on it, she said.
“The number of recipients is growing, but the number of people donating kidneys is not enough to meet the demands,” she said. “There’s a real shortage.”
Common practice has been to use family members as donors. But now, living unrelated donors such as Christy Albaugh have become an important source of organs to alleviate the shortage, Tertzakian said.
Tim Albaugh was 16 when kidney problems surfaced. Seven years ago, after about a two-month wait, he received a transplant from a 20-year-old deceased donor.
But last August, that kidney failed, and he started dialysis while waiting for a donor.
That was when Christy Albaugh, who adopted Tim when he was a 1 1/2 years old, stepped in, since they both have the same blood type. In the past six months, she has had extensive testing to determine if she is a compatible match for organ donation.
“Based on our testing, everything is favorable. That’s why we’re proceeding with this transplant,” Tertzakian said. There is a 75% to 80% likelihood that the transplant will be successful, experts say.
Since October, Christy Albaugh has also lost 97 pounds so she would be in good enough health for the surgery to proceed.
Tim Albaugh said he will be relieved not to have to undergo dialysis three times a week. Each session lasts nearly four hours.
He said he is grateful for his mother’s courage and love. As a result of her sacrifice, he said, he should be able to get a job and live a normal life.
“I’m happy that she was willing to risk this surgery and that she didn’t have any hesitation,” he said, adding that he now has a chance of “being healthy for 10 to 20 years.”