|SISTERLY LOVE:Ansonia woman
donates kidney to brother
Wednesday, June 21, 2000 By HEATHER O'NEILL firstname.lastname@example.org
After years spent tearing up the lacrosse field, it seemed inconceivable to Dmitri Anufrijevas that his fiercest opponent would be his own body.
Nor could he know that the most valuable player in the battle to save his life would ultimately be his older sister.
Anufrijevas, 26, owes his life to his sister, Mandy Dean, 30, who donated her left kidney to her brother after he was diagnosed with a rare kidney ailment called IgA nephropathy, or Berger's disease.
"I was doing two types of dialysis, one for
about eight hours a day every day at home,
and another, at the hospital, for 4½ hours
three to four days per week," he said. "After a while, I wanted
them to just take me off the dialysis and let what happened, happen.
It was miserable."
"When he first got sick, we were all scared and worried about it, but when he called and said he needed one of my kidneys, I thought, 'Oh, no,' Dean laughed. "But he's my brother, so of course I was going to do it."
Anufrijevas, who has another sister who lives out of state, said that a few friends had offered to be tested to see if they matched his blood and tissue type. But Dean's cooperation became even more needed after transplant specialist Dr. Giacomo Basadonna told the family that the most perfect matches often come from siblings.
Anufrijevas had been healthy and athletic all his life. He played on lacrosse teams at both Derby High School and the University of New Haven.
He began seeing doctors in February 1999 after he realized that he was having trouble seeing while studying for exams at UNH, where he was pursuing a master's degree in criminal justice. After a routine eye exam revealed that his optic nerves were swollen, an eye doctor sent him to an eye specialist at Yale-New Haven Hospital.
During the examination, Anufrijevas' blood pressure was found to be dangerously high and he was admitted to the hospital's intensive care unit. Doctors initially diagnosed him with hypertension, but follow-up visits revealed that something more serious was going on.
When urine samples showed abnormal levels of proteins, doctors performed a biopsy of his kidney.
"In April, they told me that I had IgA, which is a disease that affects one person in 100,000," Anufrijevas said. "I was shocked. My whole life I have been active and now I have a rare kidney disease. I was surprised."
The kidneys are a pair of bean-shaped organs located at the back of the
body that filter toxins in the body and form urine, which is then excreted.
Anufrijevas said doctors immediately put him on two different forms of dialysis to clean his blood of toxins, but advised him that a kidney transplant was the only way for him to have a truly normal life.
Dean, the mother of two, said that initially, her husband was against the operation, fearing that a complication could take the young mother away from her family. But he quickly changed his mind.
"He saw how often my brother was in an out of the hospital and how hard it was and he told me that I should do it," she said. "It was scary, but I didn't really think about it until I was going into the [operating room], and then all I could pray for was that I would wake up."
The 4½-hour surgery on May 18 was uneventful, according to Basadonna, who performed the operation, and aside from some slight complications that sent Dean back to the hospital for four days, the prognosis for both is good, to varying degrees.
"Mandy's future is bright," said Basadonna, who has been performing transplants for 10 years. "We tell people that if they are healthy, there is no risk of long-term problems. Whatever Mandy was doing before, she will be doing after."
For Anufrijevas, though, the future may be more complicated.
"We cannot promise Dmitri that his kidney will last forever because, unfortunately, they usually don't," he said. "The average healthy kidney will last from 15 to 20 years [after transplant] and Dmitri is a young guy, so it is likely that in his life span, he will need another kidney. " But on the positive side, Basadonna said, this transplant means up to 20 years off dialysis for Anufrijevas and, thus, a more normal life.
Both Dean and Anufrijevas are recuperating at home and Anufrijevas says he already feels better.
"I felt different the minute I woke up from the surgery," he said. "I have more energy and just knowing that I am not going to be hooked up to machines anymore is a relief."
For Dean, the pain and suffering are worth knowing that her brother will live a long life.
"People tell me that I should be proud of myself for what I did; I am shy about it," she said. "I just did what I had to do for my brother."