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After his first out-of-town kidney transplant failed, Andrew was relieved to have his second surgery close to home at Geisinger Medical Center.

“My original symptoms were tiredness and I was just really fatigued,” says 25-year-old Andrew Yurkanin of Dickson City. “I was really tired of always feeling so tired. It didn’t take very long to learn I had kidney failure.”

Your kidneys have many roles to help your body function properly. Their main purpose is to filter waste out of your blood. They also remove extra fluid from the blood, which becomes urine. Andrew’s kidneys weren’t functioning properly, and the buildup of toxins in his blood was causing him to feel tired all the time.

Happy to receive second kidney transplant close to home

In 2016, Andrew underwent his first kidney transplant at age 22. Because of his health insurance at the time, he had his surgery performed out-of-town. Unfortunately, this first transplant failed.

“I didn’t feel great being out of town for that,” says Andrew, “so when I learned I could see a doctor at Geisinger for the second one, I was relieved. Thankful that I could be home for treatment.”

In December 2017, Andrew was on dialysis and in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Geisinger Community Medical Center in Scranton. “I was on the waiting list for a kidney... waiting and waiting. Then, my mom got a phone call. She stepped outside my room and started crying. It was around Christmas time when we learned there was a donor match for me.” He would have his surgery at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville.

Andrew’s second match was Kelsey Levan, a 27-year-old from Elysburg. At the time, Kelsey was working in the trauma unit at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville.

“I always purchased Christmas presents for kids in need,” says Kelsey, “and wondered what else I could do to help someone.”

Kelsey signed up to be a kidney donor a year before she matched with Andrew. “People asked if I was afraid because I was so young, but I wasn’t scared,” says Kelsey. “I had prayed about it for a long time.”

Kidney door becomes life-long friend

Andrew and Kelsey’s transplant surgeon at Geisinger was Dr. Anil Kotru, a fellowship-trained specialist in transplant surgery. This time around, the procedure for Andrew’s second kidney transplant was a success.

Two days before his surgery, Andrew met Kelsey. “She’s a unique human being with a kind heart who wanted to save my life. And she did,” says Andrew. “The gratitude I have for Kelsey is hard to express... she saved my life.”

The friendship Andrew and Kelsey have developed is special. Kelsey now lives in Alaska, but the two keep in touch through social media and connect on video chat often.

Kelsey says she now has a new appreciation for life and has learned a lot from Andrew and their experience together. “The best part of this whole story for me is that Andrew is doing well,” says Kelsey. “That makes me really happy.”

“I have to thank Geisinger for the care we received,” says Andrew. “The doctors and nurses who treated us were great, and I’ve always had a good feeling of trust for Geisinger.”
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