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Jamestown Post Journal by:  Loren Kent

April 22, 2007

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From left are Diane Krzyzanowski, Tina Long,
Patti Merritt and Jeanette Ostrom of Jamestown,
the creators of Women on a Mission.

Jamestown native Jeanette Ostrom is a ‘‘woman on a mission’’ — and she isn’t the only one.

On Dec. 28, 2004, Mrs. Ostrom’s brother, Anthony, died, and that night her family received a call from Upstate New York Transplant Services asking if they would like to donate Anthony’s organs to help save or enhance a life. The family agreed. The organs and tissues were donated and lives were saved.

Wanting to share the news of her brother’s gift of life, Jeanette wrote to The Buffalo News telling the story in hopes of encouraging others. Within a short time she received e-mails from Patti Merritt of Grand Island and Diane Krzyzanowski of Akron, who each told similar stories of families with kidney disease — so she introduced them to one another.

Kidney disease was something Mrs. Ostrom was very familiar with since her son, Paul Cardinale, was born with kidney problems that would lead him to two kidney transplant operations during his young life.

Paul’s first kidney donation came from his father in 1994. By October 2005, Cardinale’s donated kidney had run its course and he was again in need of a transplant.

In January 2006, Tina Long of Buffalo was searching for a kidney for her father when she encountered a Web site Mrs. Ostrom had posted a message on. After sharing their stories, it was decided that Jeanette would give her kidney to Tina’s father and in exchange, Tina would give her kidney to Jeanette’s son.

Unfortunately, the blood types didn’t match and Paul’s search for a donor would continue.

Like a miracle from above, Mrs. Ostrom sought and found a living kidney donor for her son — but there was a catch. Buffalo General Hospital refused to accept Paul’s living kidney donor because the match had been made on the Internet, in opposition to hospital policy.

Brought together by the realization of injustice, and the common need for kidney donors, the four women formed a life-altering alliance known as Women On A Mission. Within a year, Buffalo General Hospital and medical centers across New York state had changed their policies at the request of these four women.

‘‘All we really needed to do was ask,’’ Mrs. Ostrom said. ‘‘The hospital administrators were very openminded and willing to make the policy changes they knew would save lives.’’

On Sept. 13, 2006, Cardinale received his donated kidney — a lifesaving gift — from William Thomas of Kodiak, Alaska. The surgery was the first performed in New York in which the donor and recipient met on line. Thanks to his incredible gift from Thomas, life continued for Cardinale, who was married in March.

www.wnykidneyconnection.org Is Born

With the knowledge that more than 400 people throughout Western New York are waiting for kidney transplants Women On A Mission continued to seek ways to bring living donors together with recipients.

Within days of Cardinale’s surgery, The Western New York Kidney Connection Web site was launched, providing a local venue for potential donors to connect with people in need of a kidney.

‘‘The wait for a kidney from the national waiting list is, on average, four years,’’ Mrs. Ostrom said. ‘‘Our goal is to wipe out the waiting list of people who need a transplanted kidney in our community.’’

The inspirational web site allows individuals who are healthy and willing to donate the opportunity to contact someone in need — and it’s free.

‘‘Donating a kidney can restore health and save a life,’’ Mrs. Ostrom said. ‘‘It’s an awesome act of generosity and compassion that doesn’t need to cost the donor anything financially since the recipient’s insurance pays for all medical costs.’’

According to Mrs. Ostrom, many people have old fashioned ideas or fears about kidney donation.

‘‘People fear the surgery. They believe they won’t be a suitable donor match,’’ Mrs. Ostrom said. ‘‘The surgery is relatively simple compared to twenty years ago, and the most important match is blood type.’’

Many of those who are awaiting a kidney live in the Jamestown area. The Western New York Kidney Connection Web site waiting list is filled with names and faces from local communities. Families in Lakewood, Cassadaga, Panama, Brocton, Fredonia, Dunkirk and Olean are waiting for a conection that will help their loved ones find a donor and live a healthier life.

The Internet is a wonderful tool, but can present a distance difficulty for some. Donors who must travel from distant locations are often found, which has created a need for financial assistance with travel expenses.

‘‘Earlier this year, Joe Caprino and Mike Calimeri of Artone Furniture, donated $2,000 to help our cause,’’ Mrs. Ostrom said. ‘‘There are many non-medical expenses involved in finding a living donor.’’

Women On A Mission is now focused on raising money to help cover costs associated with transportation, food and lodging for potential donors and advertising to attract donors. They are also looking for sponsors to help pay for team t-shirts as they take part in the National Kidney Foundation Walk at Buffalo’s Dunn Tire Park on June 10.

‘‘Most of all, we’re looking for heroes,’’ Mrs. Ostrom said. ‘‘If this Web site helps save one life, we will consider it a success.’’

For additional information, contact Jeanette Ostrom at 716-450-8958, or visit The Western New York Kidney Connection at www.wnykidneyconection.org