The spiritual might call it instant karma, while the pragmatic chalk it up to the effecitvness of the St. Barnabas Kidney Paired Donation program. Either way, a veterinarian from Woodland Park got a lifesaving kidney donation.
Dr. Mark Salemi had been waiting for more than a year for a matching donor and last month found one through the St. Barnabas program, which greatly shortens the wait time for a kidney.
In the months after Dr. Salemi’s wife, Ann, wrote a letter to the community pleading for potential donors. Seventeen people came forward to volunteer.
In the end, it was Jayme Miller, a former employee at Salemi’s Staten Island veterinary practice, who gave up a kidney. She had promised to be there if she was ever needed.
“Everybody says that,” Dr. Salemi said, but when it became apparent that he was going to need the kidney, “she said, ‘Let’s get this done.’ I said, ‘Really?’ She said, ‘Yeah.'” Miller said she was more than willing even though she doesn’t get paid for time out of work.
Despite his practice being based in Staten Island, he makes house calls for residents in Woodland Park. “Mark has a heart of gold,” Woodland Park mayor Keith Kazmark says. “He is incredibly committed to his family, his community and all his four-legged friends.”
The original diagnosis of Dr. Salemi’s polycystic kidney disease (PKD) came more than 23 years ago, when he was told that there was a strong likelihood that one day he may need a kidney. Last summer, his PKD started to become a serious medical concern — his kidney function had dropped to below 15%.
He was told it was time to start looking for a donor, though also became increasingly apparent that the wait for a cadaver kidney would be long — from five to seven years — if he could find a living donor, that would greatly reduce wait times and get him off dialysis.
Paired donation programs benefit someone who needs a kidney and has a willing donor who is incompatible. That donor’s kidney would go to someone else compatible, and in return a kidney would be matched to the original candidate. (Salemi’s sister, who also has PKD, received a liver and kidney transplant last summer.)
St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston has one of the largest living donor programs in the country. For more information, visit rwjbh.org/ldi.