By Kate Day Sager, Olean Times Herald
If Julie Wolf had met Linda Padilla on the street last year, they likely would have passed each other by as total strangers.
These days the two Olean women are as tight as sisters thanks to a kidney transplant Ms. Wolf received from Ms. Padilla in late August.
While both women know the transplant came about from help provided through the Western New York Kidney Connection organization, they also believe the donation was destiny, or even fate.
Ms. Wolf, who is the executive director of Interfaith Caregivers in Olean, explained that she has been diabetic for a number of years. She said her health problems escalated after she had an angiogram procedure four years ago. An angiogram is an imaging test that uses X-rays to view the body’s blood vessels.
“When they put the dye through me, my kidneys shut down,” Ms. Wolf said, noting that she was warned this could happen. “That’s when I went on kidney dialysis and I had been on it ever since.”
She said over the years, she had to have dialysis treatments three times a week at the Dialysis Center at Olean General Hospital. As the years went by, she had hopes of receiving a kidney donation but nothing worked out. A nephew who had wanted to donate a kidney to her was turned down after tests showed he wasn’t a good match. Her three daughters also found out they didn’t match her blood type. Her daughter, Terri Lang, then began looking into a kidney swap program, and her other daughter, Laurie Losey, put her name and photo on the Kidney Connection Web site.
“Linda (Padilla) saw it on the Web site and I got an e-mail from her that said: ‘You helped my mom and maybe this is a way I can help you, I think I’m your type.'”
Ms. Wolf, 62, learned that she had indeed helped Ms. Padilla’s mother, Julia Waldeck, through Interfaith Caregivers. Turns out, Ms. Wolf and volunteers from the organization had given Ms. Waldeck rides to radiation treatments when Ms. Padilla, who then lived in another community, was unable to transport her mother. After the two women met each other they realized they had other things in common.
“The more we talked, the more we found that the similarities in our lives were absolutely incredible,” Ms. Wolf said. “The topper was that the last time we went to Buffalo General Hospital together for pre-surgical testing they found out our Social Security numbers were the same except for the last three digits.”
Ms. Padilla, 61, is the postmaster at the Ellicottville Post Office and said she has always tried to help others. She donates blood and is on marrow and organ donor lists.
Ms. Padilla said after she found Ms. Wolf’s name on the Kidney Connection Web site, she decided she would help her.
“I chose Julie because she was from Olean and was in my age group,” she said.
Before contacting Ms. Wolf, however, Ms. Padilla checked with her family to make sure they were okay with the donation.
“My daughter thought it was an incredible thing … she’s in the National Guard and is very involved and she thought it was incredible,” she said.
Ms. Padilla said she also wanted people to know that individuals who donate kidneys don’t have as much of a problem with recovery as rumored.
“It’s not true, it’s just not true,” she said while pointing to a small scar on her side below her ribs. She said she spent three days in the hospital and has taken time off from work but otherwise is doing quite well.
Ms. Wolf said it took her several weeks to recover after surgery. And while she has lost weight since the procedure, her general health has drastically improved. She said she does some work for the agency from home and expects to return to work in several weeks.
Jeanette Ostrom of the Kidney Connection in Jamestown said Ms. Wolf’s transplant has been the first successful match found through the Web site. Ms. Ostrom said she and others set up the Web site after her son had received a kidney match through a national Web site a couple of years ago.
“We wanted to make it easier for people in our area to make connections so we set up our Web site in September of 2006,” she said. “We’ve had people connect, and people test for other people, but Julie’s and Linda’s is our first big successful match.
“It’s like a dream for us … when we get two people to connect, it’s wonderful,” Ms. Ostrom said. “We hope more people will post because nowadays it’s not major surgery to donate a kidney.”
As for Ms. Wolf and Ms. Padilla, they’ve had the added pleasure of finding a new friendship through the donation. They regularly visit and call each other, go to the movies and have dinner together.
Ms. Padilla said she hopes their story will inspire others to help someone in need of a kidney donation.
“It was the right thing to do, this is about taking the opportunity to help someone else,” Ms. Padilla said.