Husband undergoes transformation to help wife get new kidney

Published On: Jan 02 2013 08:35:33 AM HST

When doctors in Pittsburgh told Shaun Daniels he wasn't a good candidate for donating his kidney, he didn't let that stop him from helping his wife get a new one.

PITTSBURGH -

When Janna Daniels was born, she wasn’t expected to live more than a few days, let alone make it to adulthood.

“They told my parents I was going to die, and then they went in and found out I had half of a kidney and then told my parents to take me home and love me, that I wasn't going to live long,” said Janna Daniels.

But when she turned 25, that same prognosis came back to haunt her.

Daniels had to start dialysis 15 to 20 hours a week to compensate for a kidney that functioned at only 5 percent. The dialysis took its toll, leaving her in pain.

“You get sick. I've had really bad leg cramps, and you get really bad stomach cramps, and you throw up, and it's horrible because you're in a reclining position and you can't get up,” she told Channel 4 Action News’ Sheldon Ingram.

She got on a national waiting list for another kidney with the Center for Organ Recovery Education (CORE).

She would normally have to wait at least 4 to 5 years because there aren’t enough donors, but CORE’s shared donor program helped cut down the wait time for Daniels to two years.

Under the program, someone, like Daniels, would receive a new kidney as long as a relative was willing to donate one to someone else in the country.

Daniels’ husband, Shaun Daniels, a mechanic for PennDOT, answered the call.

CORE told him that if he donated a kidney to someone else, his wife would come off the waiting list immediately and receive a new kidney in return.

“It’s a real good deal,” he told Ingram.

But the deal quickly turned sour when doctors told Shaun Daniels, a former Marine, that he was overweight, had high cholesterol and blood pressure and would not make a good donor.

“They said, ‘You're done. We can't do anything with you,’” he told Ingram. “I was pretty hurt.”

Rather than give up, Shaun Daniels spent the next year transforming his body and diet to lose 50 pounds.

One of his kidneys was removed at Allegheny General Hospital and sent to San Diego, where a transplant recipient was waiting for it.

Now, 16 months after his wife’s kidney transplant, both are happy, healthy and grateful.

Janna Daniels no longer needs dialysis.

“I'm grateful to God for the whole experience and just all of it,” said Janna Daniels.

“It's the gift that keeps on giving,” said Shaun Daniels.

The couple was part of a chain of donations across the country that included 60 people.

More than 6,000 people in Pennsylvania are waiting for new kidneys.

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