Sydney Waitley has given her dad, David, plenty of Father’s Day presents over the years. But this year, she says there’s no way to repay the gift he gave her just before Christmas — his own kidney.
“It was very emotional for me,” says Sydney, 22. “He literally gave a piece of himself. I was so thankful, and also so glad.”
The surgery at Sharp Memorial Hospital was just another chapter in the family’s remarkable history. Sydney is one of four identical quadruplets, the odds of which are somewhere around 1 in 11 million. When the girls were born, David and his wife, Heidi, already had three daughters at home, so the couple found themselves parents to seven daughters — all under the age of 8.
The quadruplets were born three months early at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns — weighing only about 2 pounds each — and spent three months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Doctors were initially concerned about Sydney’s kidney function, but it improved by the time she and her sisters went home.
Sydney felt healthy until she went away to college a few years ago. Before classes even started, she grew seriously ill and was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease.
She moved home to focus on her health, and it soon became clear she would need a transplant. Though her sisters were willing to donate, Sydney’s father stepped up to spare his daughters from undergoing the donor surgery.
“It was an easy decision for me,” says David, 54. “I think most parents would cherish the opportunity to give.”
David was one of 31 living donors who gave a kidney in 2016 at Sharp Memorial, which performs more of these procedures than any other hospital in San Diego.
Nationwide, nearly 100,000 people are in need of a new kidney. Without living donors, people with kidney failure often wait five to 10 years for an organ from a deceased donor, some dying during the wait.
The benefits of living donation are numerous. Besides shortening the wait time for others on the organ waiting list, long-term survival rates for patients are significantly better for transplants from living donors compared with transplants from deceased donors.
Sydney says her transplant experience inspired her to go into the medical field, and she recently completed training to become an emergency medical technician (EMT).
“I’m so thankful that I am alive and that my dad was part of that,” Sydney says.
For the news media: To talk with the Waitleys about their living kidney donation for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at email@example.com.