MANHASSET, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — There was a poignant reunion Wednesday for two women who were strangers but are now bound for life.
One from Connecticut donated a kidney to a stranger from Brooklyn — and they found one another due to a rare ailment, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported.
“You know the famous story that Tchaikovsky put his music to? This is a nutcracker,” Dr. Lew Teperman said.
The way Northwell Health doctors describe very rare nutcracker syndrome, you can understand the excruciating pain Heather Lucas was in. The Connecticut woman’s kidney was being crushed by surrounding veins.
Until she arrived at Northwell Health, it was a mystery.
“Eventually patients start to think they have a problem in their heads,” Dr. Elliot Grodstein said.
Once diagnosed, Lucas was offered a fix — remove her kidney and transplant it back in her body, without the crushing pain.
But she chose a selfless route.
“Heather said, ‘Well, what if I don’t really want this kidney back, myself. What if want to give it to somebody who needs it more?'” Grodstein said.
“I just knew that if my body would be strong enough to … and help somebody else get off dialysis or save their life, then that’s what I wanted to do,” Lucas said.
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Donor and recipient met after the surgery. Yvette Caton of Brooklyn, an accountant and mom, had been on dialysis for seven years and time was running out.
“To get the call from Dr. Grodstein that we had a living donor who was willing to donate their kidney, I was over the moon,” Caton said.
Organ donations, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, have been critically low.
“There are no words, but still … I am grateful. I am appreciative. And I thank Heather form the bottom of my heart,” Caton said.
Lucas is now pain free and Caton is off dialysis.
“She’s a beautiful person,” Lucas said.
“Thank you, Heather. You’re beautiful, too,” Caton responded.
Doctors said they see the beauty in a rare affliction turned into a gift.
“It is a Christmas gift. It is a nutcracker gift,” Teperman said.
Lucas said she hopes to inspire those suffering with nutcracker syndrome to seek help and consider also saving a life.
Northwell doctors said nutcracker syndrome is so rare, they don’t even have statistics on how many victims suffer with the condition.
CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff contributed to this report