Hospital Employee Donates Kidney to Coworker’s Husband

Colleen Herkert and Jennifer Loreto have been part of the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital New Brunswick family for more than a decade. They work together on the hospital’s bone marrow transplant unit, where Colleen, RD, CSO, CNSC, is a registered dietitian and Jennifer is a unit manager. The women are close friends, and Jennifer often asked Colleen for advice about nutrition for her husband, Manuel, who has type 2 diabetes.

Manuel’s disease was not well controlled, and it had taken a toll on his kidney function. He began dialysis in October 2017 and had to stop working. He was placed on a waiting list for a kidney transplant, but both he and Jennifer were not optimistic they would find a donor quickly.

Then, the seemingly miraculous happened. Colleen, who shares the same type O blood as Manuel, offered to donate one of her kidneys. “I’d worked with dialysis patients, and I saw firsthand the toll dialysis takes on their lives,” she says. “I never had a second thought about it.”

In January 2019, the surgery took place at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston. The procedure was a success. Today, Manuel is back to work and playing sports that he had to give up during dialysis, such as tennis. “He has his life back, and it’s all thanks to Colleen,” says Jennifer. “She gave my husband the gift of life.”

Next year, the three will travel to Manuel’s and Jennifer’s native Philippines, along with several other nurses from the bone marrow unit. The trip is especially meaningful because Manuel was unable to travel for several years due to the dialysis. “It is amazing to look at Manuel and realize that I was able to give him his life back,” marvels Colleen.

Learn more about kidney transplants at RWJBarnabas Health.