Living Organ Donations Can Help Organ Donor Shortage

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — In 2009, while working as the mayor of East Haven, April Capone felt compelled to serve one of her community members in a way that was far outside her job description.

“I had just happen to have open at my desk my Facebook account, where I was connected to 1,500 to 2,000 town residents at the time,” Capone recalled.

One post in particular caught her eye.

“I’m in need of a transplant,” Capone said the post read. “All of my friends and family have been tested and there’s no available donor. If you’re interested please contact.”

Without hesitation, Capone was tested at Yale New Haven Hospital to see if her kidney was a match. It was and early the following year, she went in for surgery.

“Every single day 22 people die on the waiting list — waiting for either a kidney or a liver transplant,” said Sanjay Kulkarni, M.D., the medical director of the Center for Living Organ Donors at Yale New Haven Health. “Our feeling is that it’s the safe and ethical expansion of living donation that really is going to solve the health crisis for patients with end stage organ failure.”

Dr. Kulkarni performed Capone’s kidney surgery — a procedure he says has advanced dramatically over the years.

“It used to be an open operation with a large incision on the side of the body,” he explained. “Now we do all the operations using the minimally invasive technique, so it’s actually done through three small incisions.”

That means less pain and a quicker recovery.

“It’s really the surgeons and the physicians, and, you know, the team here that make the magic happen,” Capone said. “They give recipients their quality of life and you know, as a donor, I’m just happy to be part of that equation.”

Today Capone has a new job. She’s the manager of the Center for Living Organ Donors and is helping others give the gift of life.

“My message for the past seven years since becoming a living organ donor is to open your mind to the possibility of living organ donation,” Capone said.

Since the surgery she says Carlos Sanchez, the man who received her kidney, is feeling great.

“He is just living a normal life like the rest of us,” Capone said. “He is able to travel now and do things that he couldn’t before.”

For April, there have never been any doubts about her decision.

“I have to say for me, it was an intuitive decision,” she explained. “It was very clear to me in the role that I was in, in the way that I have lived my life, in the way that I was raised in my family, if you see someone who needs help and you have the means to help them, you do that without hesitation.”

To learn how to become an organ donor, visit YNHH.org/OrganDonation.

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