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Be someone’s perfect match. Be a living donor.
By Nancy Kennedy

Be someone’s perfect match. Be a living donor. 

Erin Russell-Story was in perfect health – active, engaged in life and spirited, with no obvious signs or symptoms of illness. Then came the shocking diagnosis of IGA nephropathy, an autoimmune disease that destroys kidney function with no known cause. The disease most often affects children and youth and progresses slowly over several decades. In rare cases like Erin’s, it suddenly strikes adults and rapidly depletes kidney function. 

Within four months of diagnosis, Erin began dialysis at a clinic three times a week. While she continued to work, Erin had to significantly restrict her diet and fluid choices as well as limit exercise. She was weak, sick, tired and, often, in pain. A kidney transplant was her best option to give her back the active lifestyle she loved. She was added to the transplant waiting list, where she joined more than 118,00 people nationally waiting for a life-transforming transplant.

She told family and friends that she was exploring a match from a living donor, too. Several people stepped up, but no one was a match, so she made a sign and hung it in her car. Little did she know her future donor match shared a parking lot.

At the time Colleen Butcher worked with Erin at the U.S Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory in Pittsburgh. After the death of her mother, Colleen was looking for something meaningful and life-affirming. When she saw the handwritten sign in Erin’s car, she decided to act. She reached out to Erin and that began a process. 

After extensive medical testing, Colleen was approved as an excellent kidney match for Erin. Even cold and snowy weather the week of the surgery couldn’t deter Colleen’s determination to give the gift of life. Erin received her transplant in January 2015. 

“I cannot overstate the personal sacrifice and tremendous and selfless gift that Colleen made to me,” Erin said. “Her generosity is second to no one I know. Colleen gave me a vastly improved quality of life. Now, I not only have energy, focus and drive, I also have hope and expectations of a long and healthy life.”

Individuals interested in becoming a living donor can find more information on CORE’s website, or they may call 412-963-3550 and ask to speak with a living donor coordinator. 

About CORE
With headquarters in Pittsburgh and an office in Charleston, West Virginia, CORE oversees a region that encompasses 163 hospitals and almost six million people throughout western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Chemung County, New York. For more information, visit www.core.org, or call 1-800-DONORS-7 or 1-800-366-6777.

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