Hudson woman grateful for successful kidney donation after chance meeting in Target parking lot

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Gail Weisberg (center) holds her sign seeking an “angel” to donate their kidneys. (Photo/submitted)

HUDSON/MARLBOROUGH – Long awaited and once delayed, a kidney donation surgery involving a pair of local residents went forward successfully on Tuesday.

Now, Gail Weisberg and Debbie Munley, who donated her kidney to Weisberg, are recovering and looking to the future.

“I feel that Debbie is a miracle, an angel,” Weisberg told the Community Advocate prior to this surgery. “She’s a gem of a person to want to help a stranger and it’s unbelievable that this is happening.”

Donation stems from meeting in Target parking lot

A Hudson resident, Weisberg has had kidney disease throughout her life. She has particularly spent the last two and a half years, though, undergoing daily dialysis treatments while remaining on a waitlist for a kidney donation. 

Weisberg set up a website as part of her kidney search, with around 200 people volunteering to donate. 

Out of the 200 people, however, only around nine were deemed viable possibilities. Getting a match from them was further complicated when the transplant unit at Mass General Hospital, where Weisberg planned to have the surgery, was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Doctors also found problems in some of the willing donors that prevented a kidney donation.

After this, Weisberg began sharing signs asking for an “angel” to donate a kidney. 

That’s when Munley met Weisberg. 

Munley, a Marlborough resident, noticed one of the signs on Weisberg’s car in a Target parking lot in Marlborough. She reached out and told Weisberg that she was interested in helping.

Munley then started the process by giving the hospital her information and doing testing.

As it turned out, she and Weisberg were a match. 

A transplant surgery was first scheduled for Feb. 15. Weisberg and Munley were moments away from moving forward with the operation on that date when a preoperative tests uncovered a potential issue in Munley’s echocardiogram stress test. The surgery was delayed, and Weisberg restarted her search for a kidney, before later tests then showed that the issue had just been an anomaly. 

The operation was back on. And doctors were able to schedule a new surgery date for this week.

Weisberg looks to help others get kidneys

Undergoing dialysis, Weisberg has also experienced a number of other health problems including breast cancer, congestive heart failure, a broken hip and a stroke.

She additionally caught COVID-19 from a hospital stay, which required her to be hospitalized for four weeks.

“[The doctors] say I’m the healthiest, sickest person they’ve ever met,” Weisberg said.

After all those challenges, though, Weisberg said in a phone call on Friday after the operation that the transplant had been successful.

With plans to go home on Saturday, Weisberg had previously noted larger advocacy plans. 

She mentioned walks that the National Kidney Foundation holds each year, including a recent one in Waltham that she attended. 

Altogether, more than 90,000 people in the US were on transplant lists waiting for kidneys as of last year. Weisberg noted that many people do not realize that they can live with just one kidney. 

“I’m trying to help other people get kidneys,” Weisberg said. “I had my miracle, but so many other people need miracles.”

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