LANCASTER, NY- 'Tis the season for giving, and this is a story that will warm your heart. One woman is giving a piece of herself so her friend has a second chance at life.
Donna Park of Lancaster didn't know how many more holidays she would be able to spend with her husband and three young children. She learned in October that her Lupus had progressed and she would need a kidney transplant. Life came to a screeching halt.
"Unfortunately all my family members were not candidates for the kidney transplant," said Park.
The average wait for a kidney in Western New York is four and a half years. Park was on dialysis twice a week as she waited, and prayed.
"You're tired after the treatments. I'd come home, I'd be exhausted. My legs would cramp. It was definitely altering the family lifestyle we had had that was just so carefree that you never realized how good you had it until it was taken away," she said.
Park's best friend, Tracie Bieler, knew she had to do something. She didn't hesitate to get tested to find out if she could be a donor.
"She called me on the phone and she was the first one to tell me she was a match," said Park. "I think I was in shock and I fell to the floor and tears started flowing from that moment on."
"I'm a faith-filled person and I believe there are certain things that are meant to be for reasons and I've just been completely at peace with this entire process," said Bieler.
Bieler, a wife and mother of four, said she's neither anxious nor scared. But Donna admitted she had some reservations.
"I honestly felt like you have a family of your own, I didn't want to take anything away from you," Park said.
"Knowing what it's going to do for Donna, the inconvenience that I'll have for a few weeks, it's a no brainer," said Bieler.
Park said Bieler has always been like a sister, but now she's much more.
"I have to say Tracie is my hero and she always will be," said Park.
For in this season of giving, Bieler is giving Park a gift like none other: the gift of life.
"It took this, this medical nightmare that I had, to actually make me realize and really focus on what Thanksgiving is all about," said Park. "It's not about the turkey and where you're going and who you're going with. It's a matter of being alive, and being with my kids, and being with my family, and goodwill that's being spread amongst all these people that are involved."
Their surgeries are set for Monday at ECMC. Park is an ER nurse at Children's Hospital and she's been out of work since May because of her illness. Friends are holding a benefit for her to help with medical costs. It's Saturday, January 26, 2013 from 6 to 11 p.m. at the Lancaster Elk's Lodge #1478 at 33 Legion Pkwy. Tickets are $25. Click here for more information.
To learn more about becoming a kidney donor, go to the WNY Kidney Connection website.