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Grateful patient gives back in honor of her ‘new life’ after transplant

Michelle Mastropolo recovers from her kidney transplant in August 2014 with the support of her spouse, Carol Ann Davies.

Michelle Mastropolo recovers from her kidney transplant in August 2014 with the support of her spouse, Carol Ann Davies.

When she was 22, Michelle Mastropolo learned she had polycystic kidney disease, an incurable genetic disease that took the lives of her mother and then her brother. Thirty years later, in early 2014, she was diagnosed with end-stage kidney failure. Mastropolo went on the waiting list for a kidney transplant.

Kidney chain Operation

Vaughn Whittaker, MD, during kidney transplant surgery.

“My kidney function was at 20 percent and dropping,” she explained. “By August, it was at 4 percent.” Waste from proteins was accumulating in her blood and making her feel sick. Her levels of creatinine, a product of metabolism, were hundreds of times what was normal. Yet, she was still trying to keep a normal life for her spouse, Carol Ann Davies, and daughter Julia. They were at a family party in Skaneateles when she received the call from the transplant coordinator, Ellen Havens: Get to Upstate, now. They had a kidney waiting.

“I had the operation at 2:30 that morning, and by 9 a.m. I was out of recovery and in the intensive care unit,” she recalled. The entire transplant team gathered at her bedside to celebrate what Mastropolo calls her miracle. “They were beaming, and we shared happy tears.”

Two days later she celebrated her birthday and began enjoying some things her illness made impossible. Simple things like chicken Parmesan for dinner (many foods are restricted with PKD as it can cause potassium to build up to dangerous levels) and being able to attend her daughter‘s violin recital. Walking and then golfing again followed.

Mastropolo and Davies were inspired to plan and host a golf tournament as a way of saying thank you to her team at Upstate University Hospital. The 2015 tournament raised $10,000 and supports the Organ Donation and Transplant Fund, established at the Upstate Foundation, which helps post-transplant patients with personal expenses related to their health care needs.

“Organizing this tournament was our way of giving back for the extraordinary care and support I received as a patient. Thanks to this incredible team, I began my new life at age 53,” said Mastropolo. She and Davies are planning the second Transplant Tournament for 2016 (click here for its website).

About the transplant program at Upstate

Upstate University Transplant Services offers a comprehensive kidney transplant program for patients suffering from end-stage renal (kidney) disease, the final stage of kidney failure. Upstate surgeons perform nearly 50 kidney transplants annually (more than 4,100 transplants to date) making Upstate's kidney transplant program one of the most experienced kidney transplant programs in the region.

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(From left) Whittaker, assistant professor of surgery and transplant program director; Mastropolo; Davies; and transplant social worker Tania Lyons at the check presentation. Mastropolo said that when a friend saw the check on Facebook for $9,875 -- the proceeds from the golf tournament -- she immediately made a contribution to bring the total to an even $10,000.


This article appears in the fall 2015 issue of Upstate Health magazine..Layout 1