The Wright Center Shares Kidney Transplant Story

In observance of National Donate Life Blue and Green Day on Friday, April 12, The Wright Centers for Community Health and Graduate Medical Education is sharing the story of the Desouza family to raise awareness about the gift of organ donation and its impact on others.

Patricia Desouza veered her car off the road as the caller’s words sunk in.

By 5:30 a.m. on April 30, she needed to be at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia for surgery to remove her kidney. Later that afternoon, a stranger would receive her life-changing gift. And there was more.

A match also had been found for her eldest of three sons, 27-year-old Kenneth, who would undergo his own kidney transplant at the same hospital that afternoon — about a year after her husband, Larri, underwent the same transformative procedure at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania.

Only a week had passed since her son had added his name to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) national transplant waiting list, joining more than 106,000 people, including 7,000 Pennsylvanians, in need of a donor. Of those, 87%, or 92,000 nationwide, need a kidney, facing an average wait of three to five years, according to the American Kidney Fund.

From her car, Desouza, a Peckville section of Blakely small business owner, life coach, public speaker, and mentor who actively volunteers at the Peckville Assembly of God, thanked God for answering their prayers. Then the eight-year Wright Center for Community Health board member called her son to share the remarkable news.

“He was like, ‘What? What? I don’t even know what to say,'” she recalls of their March 15 conversation. “He was in shock.”

Although her kidney proved to be a suitable match for her son, the family of five remained steadfast in their belief that God would provide an even better match.

“I reminded my son when he would get a little discouraged that man’s timing is not better than God’s timing,” says Desouza.

The transplant will open doors for the talented musician who plays 10 instruments, manages a gas station, and volunteers at their church as a youth minister with his fiancee, Nicollette Gauthier. He looks most forward to those things often taken for granted in life, such as a good shower or enjoying his upcoming wedding without serious health concerns looming.

Growing up, he contended with many health challenges and hospitalizations, including Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, at age 12; and a kidney disorder called nephrotic syndrome, by his late teens.

After an appointment with quintuple board-certified physician Dr. Linda Thomas-Hemak, the president and CEO of The Wright Centers for Community Health and Graduate Medical Education, her son received a proper diagnosis, treatment plan, and much-needed hope, says Desouza.

“In the face of adversity, the Desouza family’s health journey embodies courage, resilience, faith, gratitude, and the profound impact of selfless, mutual giving,” says Dr. Thomas-Hemak. “Patricia’s and Kenneth’s upcoming surgeries stand not only as an awesome testament to medical marvels, but also to the power of humanity, as a beacon of love, hope, and compassion. Each step, each transplant, is a testament to the miracles that unfold when love, altruism, and generosity intertwine. Their story serves as a compelling reminder of the critical importance of organ donation, highlighting how one selfless act can profoundly transform the lives of others, embodying and honoring the essence of humanity’s interconnectedness.”

Desouza and her husband also became patients of The Wright Center for Community Health. That’s also when things turned around for her husband, following a decline in his kidney functions, most likely from an extended use of gout medication.

Under the care of his primary care physician, Dr. Jignesh Sheth, who serves as chief medical officer for The Wright Center for Community Health, he underwent preparations for gastric bypass surgery to aid in losing enough weight to undergo kidney transplant surgery. Following the successful reduction of his body mass index (BMI) post-surgery, he joined the national transplant list. Despite encountering multiple setbacks, he eventually found a suitable match and underwent a successful kidney transplant last spring.

Freed from the constraints of his triweekly dialysis regimen, the transplant brought about a profound transformation in his life. He embraced newfound freedoms by joining a gym, traveling to their native Brazil, and even competing in track and field events.

“We went through a lot of trials and tribulations,” says Desouza, reflecting on having both her son and husband undergoing dialysis simultaneously at home. “If I didn’t have God, I don’t know how I would have made it through.”

The family plans to travel to Philadelphia the day prior to the surgeries and anticipates staying for up to two weeks.

“I only have to stay one to two days,” Desouza says. “But my son has to stay 10 days to two weeks. For the first week, he will have appointments twice a week there. As a mother, I didn’t want to leave him. So we will stay.”

Unsure who will receive her kidney, her son’s donor is from Wisconsin.

“It was not even a decision for me to donate my kidney,” she says. “It was just a part of my life that I didn’t have to give a second thought. If you can live with one kidney, and make a difference in someone’s life, you just share what you have.”