Despite Type 2 diabetes, Mike LoPresti was cruising through life, often on his motorcycle. But after a road accident in February 2009, he wasn’t bouncing back as he expected.

“I was not recovering well,” said LoPresti, 63, of Newark. “I was feeling rundown, and having trouble breathing and sleeping.”

In March, he learned that his problems were caused by fluid buildup due to renal failure. He started dialysis when he was in the hospital. “I felt like a zombie,” he said. “Dialysis is very draining — something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.”

Six months later, doctors suggested a kidney transplant. The team at the Kidney Transplant Program at Christiana Care Health System suggested that LoPresti consider a live donor rather than wait five years or more for a deceased donor.

S. John Swanson III, M.D.
S. John Swanson III, M.D.

“A living kidney donor can be someone you know such as a spouse, a relative, co-worker or friend, or even an altruistic stranger,” said S. John Swanson III, M.D., chief of transplantation surgery. “Kidneys from living donors tend to work better and last longer because the donors undergo thorough testing to ensure that the organ is healthy.”

Live donation offers other benefits, as well. With a deceased donor, recipients live with the uncertainty of getting a call at any time an organ becomes available. With a living donor, patients can plan transplantation in advance, usually in four to five weeks after the donor is evaluated and approved.

LoPresti helped to get ready for his transplant by embracing healthy habits. “I am the poster child for compliance,” he said. “If I need to do five things to get better I will do all five. The soda went away. The fast food went away.”

He dreaded dialysis, but he kept up with his regimen, which included four-hour treatments every other day. He also looked for a live donor.

The first candidate was his daughter, MaryRuth Nich, a nurse practitioner at Christiana Care Cardiology Consultants. “Not only did she take wonderful care of me when I was sick; she agreed to be tested to learn if she was a match,” he said.

But his daughter discovered she was pregnant shortly after being tested. A couple of friends talked about donating, but that didn’t work out, either. “They weren’t emotionally prepared to make the sacrifice.”

The operators of Hilltop Inn, a tavern in Fair Hill, Maryland, agreed to host an event to raise awareness of kidney disease and raise money for his care. At the event, a woman he had never met came forward and offered to help.

“She said she was interested in becoming a donor,” he said. Although she was not a match, that didn’t mean he would not receive a kidney. The donor became part of the paired kidney donation program. She donated a kidney to a patient who was a match for her, and in return, LoPresti received a kidney from a matching donor in the program.

Velma Scantlebury, M.D.
Velma Scantlebury, M.D.

Soon after his benefactor donated her kidney, LoPresti got his match. He was the 200th recipient of a kidney transplant at Christiana Care. His surgery was performed by Velma Scantlebury, M.D., associate director of the Kidney Transplant Program.

“Improved surgical techniques are making it easier for people to donate a kidney to a patient who is in need,” Dr. Scantlebury said. “With more live donors, more patients are able to receive a life-transforming transplant.”

Christiana Care launched the transplant program in 2007 and is the only health system in Delaware to offer adult kidney transplantation.

LoPresti, who feels much better and enjoys daily walks now, said he posted his kidney’s “first birthday” on his Facebook page. “I think of the day I had my transplant as the day I was able to start my life over again,” he said.