A Kidney for Kelly

Kelly McNally, right, plays with her children at Towanda’s Third Ward playground.

TOWANDA — It has been almost a decade since Kelly McNally, a Towanda resident and mother, was first diagnosed with kidney disease. Her painstaking search for a kidney that would match with her extremely specific blood type and reactive antibodies continues today despite her receiving her first call in her almost six years on the kidney waiting list of a organ match on Sunday.

Kidney disease itself, at almost any stage, is a pain that those affected would not wish upon their worst enemy. The disease affects the majority of muscles and organs in the body due to blood not being filtered and even causes mental facilities to not operate properly in most patients.

McNally not only has to experience the failing of her kidneys, but the yet fruitless search to find a one in a million kidney donor match to save her life.

In 2011, while taking classes at Mansfield University, Kelly was walking up a hill on Mansfield’s campus, felt lightheaded and started seeing stars. She had to sit down to rest and took almost 10 minutes to feel better.

“I thought, something’s not right here, I’m pretty active, I should not be feeling this way,” Kelly told the Review in 2018.

She then went to her doctor, and after a few blood tests, discovered she had stage three kidney disease. The disease was on the verge of stage four and progressed to it shortly thereafter.

“And that is when I found out I was having Jagger,” she said. “The doctors did not recommend having a baby while dealing with the disease, but it was already done.”

Usually when a pregnancy occurs while the mother has this disease, things can dramatically get worse. But that’s not what happened with Jagger and his mother.

“When I was pregnant all of my levels were great. My doctor was like ‘this is crazy.’ I felt no problems throughout my pregnancy and even after I felt wonderful. He was healthy, he was great, no problems there.”

About six months after Jagger’s birth, Kelly’s health started to gradually decline. In April of 2016 her disease had worsened to stage five and she was placed on dialysis, a nine-hour daily process that externally filters her bodily fluids.

Kelly has been on dialysis since then and has worked tirelessly to find a kidney that would match her specific needs. She had never received a call from Johns Hopkins’ kidney wait list since she joined it almost six years ago until Sunday.

Kelly had just returned home from a long baseball tournament and was exhausted when she received the call saying that there was a potential match from a cadaver in Texas on Sunday night.

Her doctor said that match looked promising and that she should get to the hospital in Maryland as soon as possible. So Kelly and her partner took off immediately and drove to the hospital overnight.

Kelly was forced to go alone while inside the hospital due to the restrictions placed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but stayed connected with Facebook friends to update them on her potentially life saving situation. Thousands of comments, shares and reactions were posted by friends family and people in the Towanda community in support of her journey.

After hours waiting alone in the hospital for her doctors to conduct the necessary tests on the donor organ, she was told that the antibodies present in her blood would reject the donor organ despite being a match in other areas.

“Back to square one,” she posted on Facebook.

While speaking with the Review on Monday, McNally talked about a local kidney donation success story that had happened recently. Shannon Clark, a local Century 21 real estate agent, had donated her kidney to her best friend’s father. The father remarked how much, even in the moments just after waking up from surgery, he had mental clarity and was feeling rejuvenated.

“I can’t wait for that feeling,” she exclaimed. “I’ve been on dialysis since 2016, I’m ready to feel normal again. It’s taxing on your body, your muscles and your bones ache. It’s mentally taxing, everyday I’m reminded of the whole process. I felt yucky six years ago, now it’s different.”

After driving all the way back home, McNally posted again on Facebook to update everyone on her spirits after having her closest chance yet at finding a new kidney.

“Well we are finally home.. as I sit here waiting for the dreaded dialysis machine to prime so I can hook up for 9+ hours I can’t help but to feel a little anger... I always try to be positive and I try to think outside the box, but these last couple days I can’t help but to be mad!”

“I was so ready... I AM so ready... I have been on the list for six years... I have been doing dialysis for four years... I am ready for my turn!”

“They say good things come to those who wait. That’s what I’ll be doing... waiting... waiting for the perfect match that will allow me the freedom to be the mom I wanna be... To be the person I was before all of this!”

“I want to go to bed at night with no cords... with no beeping machine... with no fluid in my abdomen... I am thankful for the opportunity to have this machine so I can live a semi normal life... but I am tired... I’m exhausted!”

“With all of that said I want to say THANK YOU, to all of you who reached out to me, who commented on my post with prayers and encouragement. I truly could not be where I am today without all of your support. As I sat in that hospital room for 16 hours waiting I could not help but know that whatever happens is meant to happen.”

“I have the biggest support group ever! I was brought to tears many times from your sweet messages! Thank you all so much for being in my corner and for encouraging me all the way! I love you all and I am super grateful for all of you!”

When Shannon Clark donated her kidney to her best friend’s father she emphasized how important and easy it is to be tested for a kidney transplant, and how easy the surgery is. She hopes that her choice to give her spare kidney to save someone’s life would inspire someone else to do the same.

If you want to find out if you can be Kelly’s one in a million match, you can do so by calling the Lehigh Valley at (610) 402-8506 or Johns Hopkins at (410) 502-6152 and request to be tested for a match with Kelly McNally.

Connect with Coy: (570) 265-2151 ext. 1633; cgobble@thedailyreview.com; Facebook @CoyGobbleDailyReview.