MILLBURY - Kandy Takas is making the most of her second chance.
|Organ transplant recipient Kandy Takas sits on the front porch of her Millbury home with her son, John. Kandy will be throwing out the first pitch at the Toledo Mud Hens baseball game. (Photo: Aaron Carpenter/Sentinel-Tribune)
The Millbury resident has survived a rare kidney disease, and now she's living proof that organ donation provides a gift that is more valuable than words.
Takas, 43, is approaching the 10th anniversary of the kidney transplant operation that saved her life and allowed her to continue raising her now 13-year-old son.
"It's the best present I've ever received," said Takas, who had her transplant operation a day before her birthday on Oct. 9, 2000.
At age 32, the Lake High School and Bowling Green State University graduate was diagnosed with a rare disease, IgA nephropathy, a kidney disorder in which antibodies of a protein called IgA build up in kidney tissue.
She endured over 15 months of dialysis treatment for as long as four hours a day, four days a week, but has made a full recovery and is now thriving with her second chance at life.
"I went back to work and I never looked back. It was just like, I'm healthy, I'm well, I've got a life to lead," said Takas, who now works for Anderson's in Maumee in the company's human resources department.
"I think if you talk to most transplant patients, they're given a second chance," Takas said. "That's how we all truly feel, that we've been given a second chance at life and you don't blow it."
It was anything but a painless process for Takas, whose kidneys had shrunk to the size of grapes before the transplant. Although a healthy, 6-foot tall woman before she was diagnosed, both of Takas' kidneys had completely shut down and without a transplant she would have likely died.
"I knew something wasn't right. They couldn't figure it out. Finally my mom said, 'That's it. You're going to the ER,'" Takas said of the day she was diagnosed. "I remember just laying there thinking, 'I'm 32 years old. What do you mean?'"
Fortunately, Takas was one of the lucky patients who found a matching donor for her transplant. After several previous donors didn't match, her replacement kidney came from a man in the Maryland area whom she will never meet.
The day Takas got the news there was a matching donor, she and her son, John, were at the Woodville Mall when she received a page from the hospital. When she found a pay phone to call her doctor, the toddler unknowingly hung up the pay phone just as Takas was receiving the good news.
"He's a part of my story," said Takas, whose tale of the day she found out she was receiving the transplant was one of five featured at Life Connection's state convention.
"Everyone thinks John is like this 3-year-old still and he's 13 now," Takas said. "I told John that to everybody he's like a little 3-year-old that hangs up the pay phone."
In Ohio alone, there are over 2,350 patients waiting for a kidney transplant, and nearly 85,000 on the national waiting list. In all, there are over 107,000 patents waiting for an organ transplant in the United States.
Takas now volunteers for Life Connection, the organ procurement organization based in Maumee, which helped set up her transplant.
As part of the celebration of her 10th anniversary of the procedure, Takas threw out the first pitch at the Toledo Mud Hens home game on Thursday, with her son by her side.
"He's a huge part of my life. He was only 3 when I got sick," said Takas of John, who keeps his mom busy since the operation with activities such as soccer, track, band, cub scouts and simply being a teenage boy.
"People always ask what got you through dialysis? I tell them when you have a 3-year old, he doesn't realize that you're sick. You're just Mom," Takas said. "He got me through it. Ever since it's non-stop with him."
And now, 10 years after her life-saving transplant, Takas is hopeful her story can bring awareness to the importance of becoming an organ donor.
"The need for organ transplants, the need for people to say I want to sign up and be an organ donor. That's the root for my story and sharing my story," Takas said. "If there's one person who says, 'I'll be an organ donor.' That's what it's about, because there's just a tremendous need for it."
For more information about organ and tissue donation, contact Life Connection of Ohio at (419) 893-4891. To register as an organ and tissue donor, visit www.donatelifeohio.org.