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'She's with me always': Silver Spring woman donates kidney for husband's fourth transplant

Zoom with a Silver Spring, Md. woman who donated her kidney to her husband. (7News)
Zoom with a Silver Spring, Md. woman who donated her kidney to her husband. (7News)
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More than 104,000 people in the United States are waiting for an organ transplant. Ninety-five percent of them need a kidney or liver donation.

April is National Donate Life Month. Humans are born with two kidneys but only need one to survive and the liver is the only organ that can regenerate itself. Instead of waiting on the deceased donor list, which could last years, patients can get a kidney or a portion of the liver from a living donor.

7News Health and Wellness Reporter Victoria Sanchez spoke with a man from Silver Spring, Maryland who is alive today after four people gladly gave one of their kidneys to him over the past three decades.

When Perry Paylor, 54, was just 24 years old, he went into renal failure. Doctors explained that a childhood illness damaged the kidneys, and he needed a transplant.

In 1994 a friend donated a kidney. He got sick again and in 2001, a cousin donated. There were complications and four years later, another cousin stepped up.

In 2020, when the world was beginning to learn about COVID-19, Perry needed another kidney. Three days a week, four hours each day, he went to a dialysis center for treatment. One day, Perry’s wife Tonja said she had a doctor’s appointment to join the kidney exchange program.

SEE ALSO | Mother of 3 in desperate need of kidney transplant, waitlisted since 2019

That program matches living donors’ kidneys with compatible recipients so each pair can get a donation and transplant.

“Everyone worries about ‘the perfect match’, which is a myth I like to dispel. Unless you’re an identical twin you’re probably not going to find a perfect match,” said Dr. Jennifer Verbesey, director of Living Donor Program at MedStar Health. “And nobody needs a perfect match, you just need a match.”

When she got to MedStar Health, Tonja learned she was matched with her husband and would be able to donate directly to him.

“I feel very blessed and honored to be able to do this for him. I’m sure he would have done the same thing for me, if the roles were reversed,” Tonja Paylor told Sanchez.

“Alright, Perry. Would you do it for your wife?” Sanchez asked with a smile.

“Yes!” he answered with a loud laugh. “How else can I answer that question, right? But yes, definitely I would. I look back, every once in a while, I look back at the wedding picture and on that day, I felt like, ‘Man, I could never be more in love.’ Right? On the wedding day. And you don’t realize how much it grows and how now, she’s really a part of me and I do carry her with me all the time.”

Patients will need multiple kidney transplants as the years pass.

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“Unfortunately, kidneys don’t last forever. We will hopefully get kidneys to last 20 years or more if they come from a living donor. So, they can last a long time. Unfortunately, a lot of the medications we give people, so their body doesn’t fight against the kidney; also, believe it or not, hurt the kidney over many years,” explained Dr. Verbesey.

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