Daughter's gift of love, gift of life
Mother to receive kidney transplant

Thursday, October 29, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Beverly Seay and daughter BeverLeigh.
(Glenn Hartong photo)

| ZOOM |
BeverLeigh Seay shares her mother's smile, her eyes and even her name.

On Friday, the two women will share even more.

BeverLeigh, known as "Gigi," is donating a kidney to her mother. Beverly's kidneys failed 13 months ago, casualties of her 30-year battle with diabetes.

"She was always there for me," says Gigi, 35. "This is my chance to give something back to her."

Gigi says her decision wasn't hard and she wasn't alone in offering. Her three siblings, Kimetha, 42, Gregory, 37, and Randall, 29, all stepped forward to donate.

But Gigi was the most compatible.

"I had a feeling I'd be a match," she says. "Something just told me I would be the one. I'm not afraid. I'm just glad I could do this for her -- give her back some of the life she had before her kidneys failed."

Her daughter's confidence comforts Beverly, but doesn't override her maternal anxiety.

"My main concern is for Gigi. I hate for them to cut on her. But I think it's awesome that she and my kids wanted to do this for me. I've been very fortunate so far," she says.

Beverly, 58, started having kidney problems in 1997 and eventually was placed on peritoneal dialysis.

Every night for nine hours, she is hooked to a machine that pushes fluid into her abdomen. The fluid leeches out the toxins her failed kidneys can't handle and flushes them out of her system.

"A transplant will be a whole lot better than dialysis," said Elaine Berilla, clinical transplant coordinator for Christ Hospital, where the transplant will take place.

"Granted, (Beverly) will never have the life she had before her kidneys failed, and a transplant is not a cure for renal disease or her diabetes," she says, "but the longer someone stays on dialysis, the opportunity for complications increases."

There are 210 people awaiting organ transplants in Greater Cincinnati, according to LifeCenter, a non-profit agency that coordinates organ and tissue recovery in the Tristate:
  • 104 need a kidney.
  • 26 need a heart.
  • 70 need a liver.
  • 10 need a kidney - pancreas.
  • Many of this region's kidney transplants are done at Christ Hospital. Even though living donor kidney transplants are on the rise, officials were uncertain exactly how many have been performed since the first living donor kidney transplant was performed there 32 years ago.
  • In 1997, 154 cadaver organ transplants were performed at University Hospital, Children's Hospital Medical Center and Christ.
  • For information about organ donation, call LifeCenter at 558-5555 or (800) 981-LIFE, or check its Web site, www.Lifecnt.org
  • Since September, the Seays have spent much of their time in the hospital, undergoing test after test to assure Gigi's health and to ensure Beverly's well-being.

    Each time, Frank Seay, 60, has been there, too -- waiting while his wife and daughter are poked, pricked and prodded.

    "This whole thing is kind of traumatic," he says. "I mean, it's both of them, you know. What if something happens? It's both of them."

    The family has received massive support as they face the surgery and long recovery.

    Their church, Mount Moriah Baptist in Lincoln Heights, has kept them on a prayer list. Friends and relatives have been plying Beverly with her favorite food -- fried green tomatoes -- and holding "gown showers" for both of them.

    "I've got just about every kind of nightgown -- from flannel to silk -- and pajamas," Gigi says. "I don't think I'll have to buy anything to sleep in for the rest of my life."

    The surgery is expected to last three to four hours.

    Gigi and Beverly will be in separate operating rooms with separate surgical teams. A corridor connects the two rooms making transfer of the kidney as easy as possible.

    Medical experts say there are always risks with such invasive procedures. However, technology and medication have prepared both women for what's to come.

    Gigi's recovery will take about six weeks. The College Hill woman will take disability leave from her job at GE Capital in Mason and stay with her parents at their Forest Park home.

    Beverly will have to take anti-rejection medication for the rest of her life. The drugs will modify her immune system so her body can accept the foreign organ.

    "Living with one kidney is not an unusual thing," Ms. Berilla said. "Six percent of the population is born with only one."

    One kidney can do an adequate job of flushing toxins and waste products from the system, as well as producing the necessary hormone that helps with production of red blood cells that carry oxygen through the blood, she said.

    "In time, that one kidney will grow and be able to provide five to seven times what is needed anyway," Ms. Berilla said.

    She cautioned that because Beverly still suffers from diabetes, the new kidney may eventually be corrupted.

    "But that could be 15 years down the line. Who knows what kind of medical advancements we'll have by that time? She's got a lot of good life left."

    When they are seen together, Gigi is a younger version of her mother. Both are soft-spoken and project a humble, quiet dignity. During a break in their final set of blood- and tissue-typing examinations Monday at Hoxworth Blood Center, the Seays looked ahead to life after the transplant.

    "I'm looking forward to being able to have a better quality of life," Beverly says. "I've been blessed. I know that."

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