RICHMOND, Va. — A Virginia woman is celebrating a milestone anniversary Wednesday after getting a life-saving organ transplant three decades ago.
Balloons, cards, and even brownies fill Kim Uccellini’s desk.
“So my former boss says happy kidney-versary,” she said while reading the email aloud.
Uccellini was born without one of her kidneys and the other one was failing. Her parents learned how to administer dialysis at a young age, making family outings a little different.
A vivid memory from her childhood was a family vacation to Disney World, but it wasn’t the spinning teacup ride or “Space Mountain” roller coaster that sticks with her.
“We packed up the minivan with boxes and boxes of our own medical supplies that we would bring with us,” she recalled. “We literally had to map out where were the first aid stations across whatever park we were going to go to that day.”
That’s because every few hours, the rides and activities came to a halt so her parents could give her a dosage.
But when Uccellini was 9-years-old, her family got the call that changed her life. There was a kidney donor and she could finally get a transplant.
“[I had] the sense of freedom because I didn’t have a catheter in my abdomen,” Uccellini said.
Wednesday was the 30 year anniversary of that surgery.
“I’ve had more healthy years now than sick,” she said. “That would obviously never be possible if a family hadn’t decided to donate.”
Now, pictures of two healthy little girls and a happy marriage fill her desk. It’s a life that was possible because her kidney has been stable for so long.
“A part of me is sort of waiting to come back not great,” Uccellini said. “But things have always been stable.”
Each day, she breathes a sigh of relief. Uccellini is also giving back, too. She works for the United Network for Organ Sharing, which oversees the list of patients waiting for their own transplant.
“If you can have any sort of silver lining, this would be it,” she said.
According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, there are currently more than 113,000 people waiting for an organ transplant. Between January 1 and June 25 this year, 19,513 people received a transplant. There were also more than 9,000 donors.