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Jean S Two Second Chances At Life

"Heart and Kidney Transplant Recipient Gets Two Second Chances At Life"

Jean Smith lives by the phrase “live every day like your last” after going through radiation and chemotherapy for cancer and then undergoing both heart and kidney transplants.

Jean worked as a nurse at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, describing her life at that time as full and vibrant. Her world then changed dramatically when she was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Jean was fairly knowledgeable of the treatments she would need because of her experience as a nurse. She received radiation and chemotherapy treatment at Saint Barnabas Medical Center where she stayed strong and was supported by her family and friends. The radiation that Jean received unfortunately damaged her heart and she would eventually require a heart transplant.

Jean was actively listed as a heart transplant candidate at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and in September of 2012, she received her new heart. Margarita Camacho, MD, FACS, Surgical Director of Cardiac Transplantation and Assist Devices for Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, successfully preformed Jean’s heart transplant.

One Thing After Another

Following her heart transplant, Jean began taking medication that eventually damaged her kidneys. As a registered nurse, Jean knew this meant she was facing a lifetime of dialysis. She also learned that a living donor kidney transplant was the best treatment option for her to avoid dialysis and gain back her quality of life.

Fortunate for Jean, her niece was eager to learn about living kidney donation as she was already a registered kidney donor. After undergoing a thorough evaluation, Jean’s niece was cleared to donate one of her kidneys. Unfortunately, during her evaluation, she learned she was incompatible with her aunt. Instead, the two were offered an option to enroll in the Kidney Paired Donation program at Saint Barnabas Medical Center. This program matches kidneys between incompatible recipients and donors so that all recipients receive a compatible living donor transplant.

A kidney paired donation match was found and on May 3, 2016, Jean’s niece donated her kidney to another recipient and Jean received her kidney transplant from a compatible donor. Harry Sun, MD, Associate Director of Transplant Surgery for the Renal and Pancreas Transplant Program at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, performed the transplant surgery.

Advocate for Others

Now 71 years young, Jean spends time with her grandchildren and attends a support group sponsored by the “Hearty Hearts” Transplant Volunteers at the Heart Failure Treatment and Transplant Center at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. Jean is also writing a book titled, I’m Still Here where she addresses the peaks and valleys of her experiences. Jean continues to expresses deep gratitude to the heart donor’s family as well as her living kidney donor for their gifts of life.