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The love of a sister

October 16, 2011

Photo by Heather Cherry – Maria Savino (left) and Frances DiIulio nearly six months post-transplant.

Always sisters, now a part of each other.
Maria Savino, sister of Frances DiIulio (aka Chickie), donated her kidney to save her sister’s life in April 2011. Savino was an absolute perfect match for her sister. 
In quoting Helen Keller, Savino says, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched; they must be felt with the heart.”
DiIulio suffered from chronic kidney disease for nearly eight years without knowing it for most of those years. She traveled from doctor to doctor only to find out a similar diagnosis. As time continued, the doctors told DiIulio she had suffered from anemia and dehydration which resulted in inadequate blood levels and chronic fatigue. DiIulio continued on this path until she finally came upon a conclusive diagnosis.
“In 2008 a doctor had discovered it,” DiIulio said. “He told me I had CKD in the fourth stage and needed to prepare myself for a kidney transplant a few years down the road. If it would have been identified earlier, a transplant could have been avoided.”
This diagnosis was the shock of her life. The disease had been untreated for so long that DiIulio said it shriveled her kidneys next to nothing.
“When the doctor checked them, he said they were so scarred,” said DiIulio. “He said it was impossible to identify the actual reason for the kidney failure.”
Overwhelmed with helplessness, desperation and guilt, DiIulio began feeling as if her actions were a result to her situation.
“The thought of did I take good enough care of myself plagued me,” said DiIulio. “The thought of asking some healthy person to sacrifice their kidney was not even an option to discuss.”
Despite her unwillingness to ask for a kidney, many family and friends were more than willing to donate.
“Knowing that a relative makes the best candidate for a donor, my two sons, six siblings, many relatives along with my husband and many close friends wanted to be tested,” she explained. “Though I was very appreciative and humbled by the requests, it just wasn’t an option for me.”
Then DiIulio was taken by surprise. Before she announced any options to her sister, Savino had called to inform she was the donor.
“She said there was nothing to discuss; it wasn’t something to think twice about or consider,” DiIulio said. “It was a done deal and she asked for the number to the hospital to set up tests.”
The minute she found out a transplant would be in the future for DiIulio, Savino knew she would be the donor.
“I reassured my sister through the years she was sick with chronic kidney disease, knowing she would need a kidney transplant that I would be her donor,” Savino said. “After testing, I was called and not only was I a good match, I was a perfect match. My opportunity was confirmed and I was thrilled and began preparing myself for the excitement of giving an amazing gift of saving a life… my sister’s life.”
When DiIulio found out she was in the final renal stage, the date for the transplant was set. Precautions were taken to implant a fistula in her arm in the case her kidneys would fail before the procedure. So the procedure was set April 18, 2011, the Monday before Easter. Savino traveled from her home in Long Island, N.Y. to donate her kidney.
“No one in her town or work except her family was aware of what a brave, benevolent thing she had done,” DiIulio said. “That is one of the things that truly made her a hero in my eyes. She didn’t even want anyone to know.”

Pick up a copy of the Monday, Oct. 17, 2011 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.

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