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Sheila M. Drew, MA, RN, CPHQ, is a member of the Quality Management team at Rhode Island Hospital.
A few years ago, Drew and her husband, James, adopted a daughter, Aibhilin, from China Adoption With Love, Inc. (CAWLI). The name Aibhilin is Irish and means "a wished for, longed for child." In April 2012, Drew received word from CAWLI that a little girl named Hannah Benson was in need of a kidney.
"I've been blessed with health, happiness and a wonderful family, including our beautiful daughter," Drew says. "I felt that answering the call to be a donor for Hannah was the right thing to do." She started the donor screening process, but ultimately another individual (a Boston-based physician who is also an adoptive CAWLI parent) was determined to be the best donor for Hannah.
Drew was undeterred, and continued to feel a strong need to give back. "I knew that I could make a difference in someone's life by getting them off dialysis," she says. "Whoever needed my kidney would receive it in honor of Hannah." She ended up being a match for Carol Ryan, a 55 year-old mother and grandmother from Coventry, Rhode Island.
The transplant operation was performed during the summer of 2012, at Rhode Island Hospital's transplant center. Three days following the operation, Drew's breakfast tray was wheeled into Ryan's room, where they talked, ate and cried together. Ryan, who is also a breast cancer survivor, had been on dialysis for four years.
Though the recovery process has been lengthy, both donors and recipients had the time and energy to enjoy luncheon celebrations together later in the summer. Drew met Hannah, her mom and grandmother for lunch in September. "We instantly connected, even though we had never met," she says. "There was so much in common, so much love."
Later that week, Drew met with Ryan, who told her that she hadn't felt so healthy since she was in her twenties. These emotional meetings were filled with positive energy and left everyone thinking about ways to spread the word about the importance of transplants and helping others.
"Beginning with Hannah, I think that we were all meant to connect with each other," says Drew. "There is a Chinese belief that when a child is born, invisible red threads extend from its spirit and connect to all the significant people who will be part of that child's life. As the child grows, the threads shorten, drawing closer those people who are destined to be together."
Drew is still recuperating at home, and will soon return to work. But she is in her usual high spirits and eager to chat about the amazing adventure she underwent this summer. As she says, "It gives new meaning to the phrase, 'I gave at the office!'"
Please consider how you can help. Contact the kidney transplant program at 401-444-3285 for more information.