SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - An Oakland man’s Craigslist ad for a kidney donor led him to a Southern California woman who on Tuesday donated her left kidney to him, but their connection actually started 30 years ago.
David Nicherie was 29 years old, suffering from kidney failure and considering hospice care when, in a last-ditch effort to save his life, he posted an advertisement on Craigslist seeking a kidney donor.
“I was not in a good frame of mind. Dialysis was tough and was getting tougher. It was just hard,’’ said Nicherie, a freelance writer. “I was depressed. I was sad all the time and then I heard from her.”
Jessica Morris, a surgical nurse at a plastic surgery center, had for several years considered donating a kidney to a person in need. She followed kidney transplant pages online, had spoken to a few people who needed a donor, and even committed to kidney donation in her 2018 New Year’s resolution.
Still, nothing was panning out.
“I wanted someone who was going to be able to tell me their life struggles, what they went through and how it was going to change them. Also, I wanted it to go to someone who needed it the most,’’ she said.
Then Nicherie’s Craigslist ad popped up on her Facebook page.
Intrigued, she emailed him.
“I knew there was someone in desperate need of a kidney if they are posting on the internet,’’ she recalled.
A conversation began.
“I was very upfront. I said, ‘This is my age, this is where I’m from, this is my health, here is my blood type,’’’ said Morris.
Nicherie shot back an email, telling Morris more about himself.
The similarities between the two started to stack up.
Both were 29.
Both were born in 1988.
Both started their lives in Southern California.
And both, as it turned out, were born at the same hospital in Newport Beach.
“I just saw it as signs that this was meant to be,’’ Nicherie said. “I couldn’t have planned it better. I couldn’t have written it better myself.”
They also quickly learned they both longed to travel the world and shared a love of a good pizza.
So, earlier this year, they made a deal and moved forward with the transplant process.
On Tuesday afternoon, after more than six months of preparations, a bevy of tests, more lab work than she cares to recall, countless X-rays, and a psychiatric evaluation, Morris headed off to surgery in one room while doctors worked on Nicherie in another.
“I just got lucky that she was that amazing and that she was willing to give me such a gift,’’ Nicherie said. “I’m just ready to end one journey and start another one.”
Because the internet brought them together, the two have united to help others find donors online, launching web site called findakidneydonor.com. They’ve already had interest from a Berkeley woman who is considering donation.
UCSF transplant surgeon Dr. Sang-Mo Kang, who has performed upwards of 1,000 transplant surgeries during his 25 plus years at the medical center, said their donation website is a powerful way to provide much needed information to potential donors.
“We really need more living donors,’’ the doctor said. “I think we need a lot more education. We need more people educating others about donation and realizing it’s possible and it’s safe.”
Dr. Kang said the donor surgery is “about as safe as driving a car.”
“I always tell patients that if I didn’t tell them that I took out a kidney, they would never know,’’ he said. “You don’t feel it, you don’t know that you only have one kidney, you don’t feel any different.”
Donation surgery, which takes roughly three hours and requires a three-day post-op stay in the hospital, involves the same level of risk as “any other major surgery,” according to the American Transplant Foundation.
And although there is no national systematic long-term data on the risks to the donor, the American Transplant Foundation says that based on the limited information currently available, overall risks are “considered to be low.”
For the kidney recipient, transplant surgery carries a risk of significant complications, according to the Mayo Clinic. But clinic statistics also show that the post-op kidney failure rate is low: 3 percent at one year and 14 percent at five years after the transplant.
But on Tuesday, before they parted for their individual surgeries, neither Morris nor Nicherie were focused on risks or complications.
They focused on the positive as they hugged, promised to visit each other in the hospital and --at some point--share that pizza.
As of Tuesday evening, both were out of surgery and resting comfortably.