When Emily Gerardo, a nurse with experience in long-termcare and emergency rooms, heard that Ruth Smillie, a nurse and nursingprofessor, needed a kidney, the decision to offer Smillie one of her own didn’ttake long. “Ruth is a great person with a passion for teaching and the greatoutdoors. I had a lot of respect for her,” said Gerardo.
Though not close friends, the two had met a year earlier,volunteering for a medical mission to Senegal West Africa through the Portland,Maine-based organization Partners for World Health. “Ruth had brought sixnursing students from Saint Joseph’s College with her on the mission. I wasgiving them guidance on how to work with the Senegalese people.”
The two nurses connected through Facebook, and it was therethat Gerardo spotted Smillie’s post:
“I have polycystic kidney disease. If you know anyonewilling to donate a kidney, please contact me.”
WhileGerardo admits that kidney donation wasn’t on her‘bucket list,’ she felt a need to do something. A friend of hers from highschool had gone through the same thing, and her experience as an EMT workingwith dialysis patients gave her an intimate understanding of a very difficult,debilitating disease. “She has a zestfor living,” Gerardo said of Smillie, “which I knew dialysis would likelydestroy.”
Gerardo first contacted Smillie, then medical professionalshelped determine her A+ blood type was a perfect match. On December 14, 2014,surgeons removed a kidney from Gerardo and implanted it into Smillie. It was asuccess.
Gerardo feels great physically and emotionally. AndSmillie is living up to her name, beaming every day knowing Gerardo’s gift hasrestored her zest for life.