TAMPA, FL (APRIL 10, 2019) – Dr. Melanie Altizer went into medicine to become a healer. She took those instincts to a new level when she offered to donate a kidney to Marianne McGiffin, her office manager and friend.
“I feel like I have been rejuvenated, I have so much hope,” said McGiffin, who also is a nurse.
Altizer said deciding to donate her kidney came from the same impulses that led her to practice medicine.
“I’ve had a lot of great feelings in my life, but I can’t compare this to anything else,” she said.
Seeing her friend Marianne recover after the life-saving surgery was simply “the best feeling.”
Altizer, McGiffin and TGH physicians discussed the need for living organ donors at a news conference Wednesday, April 10 at Tampa General Hospital, which has performed more than 10,000 transplant operations.
“There’s a huge need for donors,” said Dr. Victor Bowers, executive director of the Tampa General Hospital's Transplant Institute. “We’re still fortunate, our waiting lists here are two three and four years, but in some parts of the country they are years longer.”
April is National Donate Life Month, which shines a spotlight on living and deceased donors of organs and tissue.
In this case, the donor and the recipient came together through a connection at work.
Altizer is an OB-GYN who practices in Fort Myers. McGiffin, trained as a nurse, has been an office manager in the same practice.
On a day when McGiffin didn’t seem to be feeling well, Altizer asked what was wrong. McGiffin explained that she had kidney disease and needed a transplant. The two quickly discovered they both have O+ blood.
Altizer had already signed up to be an organ donor. But that meant donating her organs if she died. She had never really considered donating an organ while she was still alive.
“When I started doing some research about living donation I was shocked at how safe it really is,” Altizer said.
“You know, I don’t really look at it in terms of a sacrifice. I think in a different way, it benefits me just as much, because I can’t think of anything more powerful or meaningful than to be able to help give someone the gift of life.”
McGiffin said she is amazed at Altizer’s generosity and said Altizer “is so giving of herself.”
Now, both women say they want to share the message that living organ donations can save the lives of others. Because most people are born with two kidneys, they remain in good health after donating one of them. Other people may donate a portion of their liver, because it can be transplanted and save the life of someone with liver disease.
Dr. James Huang, who performed this kidney transplant operation at TGH along with Dr. Heidi Pearson, said donations like these are vitally important.
“A healthy kidney from a healthy person works better, it works faster, and it works longer,” he said.
Success stories like these are inspiring, but many people are still awaiting donations so that they too can receive successful transplants, said Betsy Edwards, public affairs project manager for LifeLink of Florida.
“We’ve got more than 5,000 Floridians on the national organ transplant waiting list,” she said.
For more information on organ and tissue donation, she urged people to visit www.LifeLinkFoundation.org
For more information on kidney transplants and other organ transplant options at Tampa General Hospital, please visit www.tgh.org/services/transplant
Tampa General Hospital last year announced a partnership with Lee Health, which offers pre- and post-transplant care from TGH physicians in the Fort Myers area. McGiffin is a patient of Dr. Gautham Mogilishetty at Lee Health.
DOWNLOAD VIDEO HERE: https://mediashare.tgh.org:8095/doctor_donates_kidney
TGH HEALTH NEWS STORY: https://www.tgh.org/news/tgh-news/how-doctor-saved-life-%E2%80%93-her-own-kidney
ABOUT TAMPA GENERAL HOSPITAL
Tampa General Hospital, a 1007-bed non-profit academic medical center, delivers world-class care as the region’s only center for Level l trauma and comprehensive burn care. It is one of the nation’s busiest adult solid organ transplant centers and is the primary teaching hospital for the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. Advancing medicine through innovation, Tampa General houses a nationally accredited comprehensive stroke center, an 82-bed Level IV neonatal intensive care unit, and a state-certified spinal cord and brain injury rehabilitation center. For more information, go to www.tgh.org.