Kauai kidney finds new home on Oahu

LIHUE — For four years, Anne Hussey spent three days a week in and out of dialysis treatment after suffering from renal failure in 2010.

“At the very beginning, it was devastating,” said Hussey, of Kaneohe, Oahu. “My whole life turned upside down.”

Earlier this month, however, the treatment and lack of hope officially ended for the 55-year-old wife and mother, thanks to a donation by Kauai orthodontist Mike Bailey.

Hussey is the lucky and proud recipient of one of Bailey’s kidneys.

While it might seem strange for some to consider donating an organ to a stranger on another island, for Bailey, it was a no-brainer.

“It does no good inside me,” Bailey said. “For me, it’s just dead weight.”

On Nov. 4, the Queen’s Transplant Center performed the operation — its first altruistic kidney transplant, whereby a living person offers their organ to a stranger.

For those on the transplant list, it’s a game of wait-and-see. And while Hussey waited, several of the friends she made during dialysis treatment died.

“There is no hope,” she remembered. “Dialysis was the only thing keeping me alive.”

Hussey recalled a particularly difficult day last month, one full of depressing thoughts about living out her days in treatment.

“I was just pretty bummed out, and I just cried out to God (for help),” she said.

The very next day, on a Wednesday, Queens called and told her they had found an altruistic donor.

“I said, ‘What is that?’” Hussey recalled.

A week later, she was in surgery. One of the rules leading up the operation, however, was that Hussey could not meet, or even talk to, her donor and life-saver.

Eventually, Bailey agreed he would meet with Hussey following the operation. Today, the two continue to exchange emails, according to Hussey.

“Not only did he restore hope, he gave me a new life and purpose again,” she said. “My life has been totally restored, and words alone cannot express how grateful, how thankful, I am.”

For Bailey, the decision to donate his organ was fueled simply by his knowledge that there was a need out there. He doesn’t think of himself as noble, and actually preferred deferring attention of his deed.

“I always thought I would donate it to someone I knew,” he said, adding that the right person never entered his life.  

Finally, Bailey contacted Queens and asked if anyone who could use it.

It turns out there are more than 400 people awaiting a donation, according to Queens spokeswoman Makana McClellan, although the number on that list living on Kauai wasn’t available by the hospital Wednesday.

In the end, Bailey said his life will continue as normal. Hussey’s, on the other hand, is changed forever. The dialysis is over. And she has a new sense of hope and meaning.

“You feel pretty good about it,” Bailey said. “At least I didn’t take that kidney with me.”

Today, both are on the mend, and Hussey said she can physically feel that Bailey gave her a healthy organ.

“I know that this is an awesome kidney,” she said.

If there is one message Hussey hopes to send to others on dialysis, it is to never give up hope.

As for Bailey, he hopes his actions will inspire others to step forward as donors.

“There’s got to be a few hundred of us who could do this,” he said.

• Chris D’Angelo, environmental reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or cdangelo@thegardenisland.com.

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