Woman has successful kidney transplant after finding donor on Internet

by: Diana Davis Updated:

Christina Stonecypher, 26, whose kidneys failed two years ago said she's done well on dialysis, but doctors said her illness meant she and her husband would never be able to have a family.

ATLANTA - For the first time, an Atlanta hospital has done a transplant where the donor and recipient were matched from an Internet website.

Though the transplant worked well, a Piedmont Atlanta transplant surgeon told Channel 2's Diana Davis why Internet matching is very controversial.

Davis spoke with transplant patient Christina Stonecypher, 26, whose kidneys failed two years ago.

The new bride said she's done well on dialysis, but doctors said her illness meant she and her husband would never be able to have a family.

"But the one thing we can't do, we can't have kids. And that is something we really want," Stonecypher told Davis.

Her doctors said a kidney transplant could restore her health allowing her to safely carry a pregnancy.

Stonecypher signed up on the nationwide kidney transplant waiting list.

"They told me up front that it would be a long time so I knew going into it I would have a wait ahead of me," she said

Officials say 100,000 Americans are on the list for kidney transplants, and just 16,000 are done each year. Only half of those are from living donors, the ideal transplant.

Stonecypher's doctor at the Mayo Clinic suggested adding her name to the matchingdonors.com website.

Within days, Christina Helser, a complete stranger from Oklahoma, said she'd give the other Christina one of her kidneys.

"It just so happened that Christina was the first one we decided to test for and I matched," Hesler said.

Hesler signed up to become a living donor after a friend's mother with kidney disease died waiting for a transplant.

"I had never thought about it before of course because it never had affected my family," recalls Hesler.

Internet matching sites like the one Hesler and Stonecypher turned to are controversial according to Piedmont Atlanta transplant surgeon Dr. Miguel Tan.

"We generally don't recommend it at this time simply because it's quite unregulated. It's not the same as asking a family member or friend," said Tan.

Stonecypher told Davis she paid about $500 to be on the match list. She said she has no regrets.

"I think if that's what I had to do to get here it's worth it," Stonecypher said.

She also told Davis that dozens of potential donors who initially agreed to become donors gave her false hope when they vanished.

"I had probably 40 people earlier say, 'Yes, I'll do it.' Then you never hear from them again," Stonecypher said.

Friday, both Christinas were in surgery at Piedmont Atlanta the donation and transplant operations center, and so far both operations have been a success. Both women are doing well.

Stoneycyhper said she is grateful to "the other Christina."

"Not only is she giving me her kidney, she's giving me a child potentially one day," Stoneycyhper said.

Hesler said in a roundabout way she owes her life to becoming a donor. During the testing process she discovered she had cervical cancer.

Since she had not been getting regular pap smears, her condition had gone undetected. She was successfully treated with surgery.

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