Up Close & Personal

WNY Kidney Connection Becomes Official Not-for-Profit Organization

By Denise Royer
Freelance Writer

The power of the Internet is truly remarkable; some might even say lifesaving. Western New York Kidney Connection and its participants are proof of that. Five years ago, four women who had never met before were connected via the Internet because of a common need: each of them or someone they loved needed a kidney. Their mutual need was the inspiration behind the creation of Western New York Kidney Connection’s donor exchange program. In September 2006, these “women on a mission” – Diane Krzyzanowski, Tina Long, Patti Merritt and Jeanette Ostrom – launched Western New York Kidney Connection (www.wnykidneyconnection.org) in an effort to raise awareness about living donations for those in need of a kidney transplant in Western New York and educate those in need how to be proactive. It is also a resource to share experiences – from both the recipient and donor’s perspectives – and provides a virtual meeting place for donors and recipients across the country. This is a completely free service that has helped save the lives of many in our area, and provided hope for many more. Before these four “women on a mission” united behind their cause, Buffalo General Hospital (BGH) did not allow living donors found via the Internet. When Jeanette Ostrom’s son Paul had been refused a living kidney donor transplant there because his donor was found through www.matchingdonors.com, the women made it part of their mission to meet with BGH administrators to change this policy. Several months and meetings later, the policy was changed to allow organ donations from Internet donors. Thanks to the revised policy, Jeanette’s son’s transplant ended up being the first Internet transplant in Buffalo. Since www.wnykidneyconnection.org launched, more than 40 people in the Western New York area – including 4 transplants that occurred between complete strangers who connected through the site – have received the gift of life from a donor. You can read their inspirational stories and learn more about becoming a living donor by visiting www.wnykidneyconnection.org. At this time, another pair who met through the web site are currently making arrangements for their transplant procedure to take place. The latest success story for WNY Kidney Connection is that it has officially become a not-for-profit organization. This means that individuals can make tax-free contributions that will help the web site to keep running and thrive. There is no financial gain for the organization and 100% of donations are spent on maintaining the web site and assisting those who need financial assistance with non-medical related donor expenses. During this holiday season, there is no better gift than the gift of life. If you would like to donate, contributions can be mailed to: WNY Kidney Connection, 57 Westminster Dr. W.E., Jamestown, NY, 14701. And for those interested in learning more about becoming a living donor or who are in need themselves, visit www.wnykidneyconnection.org