Oahu woman gives priceless Thanksgiving gift - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Oahu woman gives priceless Thanksgiving gift

Maryellen Markley Maryellen Markley
Doctor Kai Yamaguchi Doctor Kai Yamaguchi
Dr. Markley meets fellow donor, the FBI's Tom Simon Dr. Markley meets fellow donor, the FBI's Tom Simon
John Simich John Simich
Diana Benningfield Diana Benningfield
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

An Oahu woman blessed another family with a priceless Thanksgiving gift.

Doctor Maryellen Markley gave up a kidney to help a stranger on a long transplant wait list.

According to Diana Benningfield, Director of Organizational Planning and Operations at National Kidney Foundation of Hawaii, "443 people are on the wait list, 416 of those are waiting for kidneys."

Markley said, "I just thought to myself somebody should do something. Somebody should do something. I realized I'm single, healthy, my kids are grown. I can do something."

She checked into Queen's Medical Center with her son John by her side on Monday morning to become a living kidney donor for a stranger.

Before surgery she reflected on her motivation, saying "You know our good health is really something to be thankful for. I don't have a lot of money or anything like that but this is something I can do and maybe other people will too."

Doctor Kai Yamaguchi says to donate you simply need to match blood types and pass health tests. According to this Queen's transplant surgeon,"You can live fine with 25% of one kidney to keep you off dialysis."

Yamaguchi walked Markley through the procedure, and then just like that, she waved to cameras as she headed off to give the ultimate gift. Markley agreed to do so, in hopes of inspiring other potential donors.

The morning after surgery, Maryellen is understandably thirsty, but otherwise doing great, and greeting visitors including FBI Special Agent Tom Simon.

Simon is also a donor and volunteers time to counsel others through the process.

Simon gave a kidney to a Maui woman he found on a website called "matchingdonors.com." He explained that "It looks and acts almost like a dating site where people need to get a kidney transplant put their profile up and photos."

Unlike Simon, Markley does not know who received her kidney. She's surprised there's no sign of the surgery. In her words, "Not even a band-aid."

Diana Benningfield of the National Kidney Foundation of Hawaii knows what it feels like. She also donated a kidney.

Benningfield said with a smile, "It turned out to be a 4 year old, but I was also a match for a 12 year old and a 16 year old. I was the best match for the 4 year old and honestly, I felt like I'd just given birth. I was so happy I've never been happier in my life."

Markley summed up the experience this way. "Different things motivate different people. This works for me. It makes life worth living."

Her son John Simich was proud of her selfless gift. He told us from her hospital bed, "She always gives me something to be prideful for. This doesn't stand out so much just as it's one more thing on the list."

Living kidney donations are fairly rare in Hawaii. There have only been 28 in the past 4 years in Hawaii. That's another statistic Markley hopes to change.

To learn more, visit www.kidneyhi.org

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