Twenty-one year-old Oaklyn resident Krystal Valianti was experiencing severe fatigue last winter but thought it was her normal schedule of school and sports catching up with her. It wasn’t until after completing medical testing a few weeks later that Krystal and her family found out from doctors that she was in kidney failure.
Krystal needed a new kidney and although nearly 30 people offered to donate, it was her older sister, Nicole, a 25-year-old kindergarten teacher, who was the closest match.
After undergoing a series of medical tests, Nicole was approved for kidney donation. The transplant couldn’t come soon enough for Krystal, who was facing dialysis because her kidney was only functioning at five percent.
The transplant took place on June 12 at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center. Nicole’s surgery to remove her kidney was performed by Dr. Ely Sebastian. Krystal’s surgery to transplant Nicole’s kidney was performed by Dr. John Radomski. Dr. Mario Torres, Krystal’s primary nephrologist at Lourdes, referred her for the transplant. Lourdes has performed more than 1,300 transplants and is the only transplant center in South Jersey. In an effort to raise organ donor awareness, Lourdes lights its Blessed Mother statue green whenever an transplant takes place.
“It was really hard when we learned that Krystal needed a kidney,” said Nicole. “It felt like it came out of nowhere because she hadn’t been sick. The first question I asked was ‘When do we start getting tested?’”
“Nicole donating her kidney to me is very special,” said Krystal. “It means a lot to me that my sister would do this for me.”
Both sisters attended Collingswood High School and are active in sports. Nicole is a former Rowan University field hockey player who now coaches junior varsity field hockey and lacrosse at Collingswood. Krystal plays lacrosse for Rutgers University-Camden.
The sisters and their family thank the Collingswood community for their support. In addition to local community members offering to be tested for kidney donation, a family fundraiser was held in February to support the family as well.
The sisters encourage those considering organ donation to become donors. “Organ donation is not as scary as I thought it would be,” said Nicole. “Giving Krystal my kidney helped save her life and I am thankful I was able to do that for her.”