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‘I Feel Healthier Than Ever’

When Lauren Fallon, 30, was just 14 years old, she was diagnosed with juvenile nephronophthisis, a form of medullary cystic kidney disease. With this condition, cysts and scarring occur in the kidneys, damaging them and potentially leading to kidney failure.

Since that diagnosis, Lauren has undergone three kidney transplants, all at Saint Barnabas Medical Center (SBMC). Far from being daunted by her experiences, she is upbeat and optimistic. And grateful.

“Donating an organ is such a selfless gift,” she says. “One life touches another, one person helps another. Now, I have a second chance at life.”

THIRD TIME LUCKY

Lauren had her first kidney transplant at age 19. Unfortunately, the transplanted kidney was rejected and had to be removed the next morning.

In 2009, she received a second kidney transplant. “At the time, I was attending Seton Hall University, and I was very determined to take a full course load, be among my peers and graduate on time with my friends,” Lauren says.

This time, the kidney transplant took. Lauren, who graduated in 2011, not only thrived in college; she met the man who would become her husband, Mike Fallon. They married in 2016.

Unfortunately, by 2018, Lauren was undergoing treatment for her second kidney rejection. On May 29, 2018, Lauren received her third kidney transplant. Post-transplant surgery, Lauren says, she woke up and felt “instantly healthy. I felt my energy come back.”

THE GIFT OF LIFE

Lauren’s third transplant was made possible by the Living Donor Institute at SBMC. A “living donor” is someone who has two healthy kidneys and allows one to be surgically removed in order to enhance or save someone else’s life.

Lauren and her husband were part of a kidney transplant chain at SBMC, now up to 32 donors and 32 recipients, and counting—the longest single-center living donor kidney transplant chain in the U.S.

In a kidney transplant chain, a patient in need has a potential donor who is, unfortunately, incompatible to donate to that patient. However, the kidney can be donated on behalf of that patient. In return, that patient will receive a kidney from another donor—one who was also found to be incompatible with the person they had originally intended to give to.

“Mike says he knew the day that he proposed that at some point he would donate a kidney in order for us to have a better life moving forward,” Lauren says. “I am so grateful for his decision.”

She is grateful, too, for the treatment she received at SBMC, under the care of Stuart Geffner, MD, MS, Director of Transplant Surgery at RWJBarnabas Health and Chairman and Surgeon-In-Chief, Department of Surgery, and Harry Sun, MD, Associate Director of Transplant Surgery. “I’ve been a patient here since I was 14 years old, and everyone here—from the phlebotomists to transporters, to surgeons and anesthesiologists—has made my experiences here that much better.”

The future is bright. “My husband and I are wanting to start a family and are pursuing adoption,” Lauren says. “Now, I feel healthier than ever.”

To learn more about the kidney transplant program at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, one of the nation’s largest, visit www.transplantkidney.org.