- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 24, 2005

SUMMIT, N.J. — They were strangers who shared a dire dilemma: two women whose husbands each needed a kidney but who could not give one of their own to their spouse.

After being brought together by a hospital and arranging a swap in which each woman donated a kidney to the other’s husband, they shared Thanksgiving dinner yesterday to celebrate the arrangement that saved two lives and bonded four new friends.

“I can’t comprehend what this Thanksgiving would have been like without that kidney swap in April,” said one of the women, Rosalind Dorlen, a psychologist in Summit. “This is a time of great joy for us and our families.”

“This is an entirely miraculous holiday,” added Ann Heavner, a retired financial researcher for Standard & Poor’s who lives in New York City.

The women wanted to help their husbands, but couldn’t because of incompatible blood types. Mrs. Dorlen’s husband, David, 71, was suffering from kidney failure after years of high blood pressure. Mrs. Heavner’s husband, Tom Packard, 65, a senior vice president at Wachovia Securities, also had high blood pressure and a congenital condition that put added stress on his kidneys, requiring painful dialysis three times a week.

Both men knew they needed kidneys and set out with their wives to research what was available. They learned of a kidney swap program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center that brings together families just like theirs.

“It is a great opportunity for family members who want to donate but are not compatible with their own family member to be able to donate,” said Dr. David Cohen, medical director of the hospital’s renal and pancreatic transplantation program.

The families are supposed to be kept apart before the surgery in case they do not click on some level and one party decides to back out. But because of a scheduling glitch, both families arrived at the hospital at precisely the same time.

“It’s unusual to come to a hospital and see each member of a couple holding an overnight bag,” Mrs. Dorlen said. “Here we are, four of us, with four bags, walking onto the same elevator at 6 a.m.”

“Rosalind said, ‘You must be the other couple,’ ” Mr. Packard recalled with a laugh. “I said, ‘I think we are.’ ”

Since the surgery, the couples have become close friends, going out to dinner twice a month. They even took a joint vacation in August.

The two families, with children and other relatives in tow, gathered in the Dorlens’ Mountainside, N.J., home yesterday to express how truly grateful they are for each other’s generosity. Mr. Packard had his version of the pre-meal grace speech written in his head.

“In the words of that immortal philosopher Yogi Berra, when they gave him a special day to honor him in St. Louis, he stepped up to the microphone and told everyone, ‘Thank you for making this day necessary,’ “he said. “I want to thank you for coming here to celebrate this wonderful miracle and for making this Thanksgiving necessary.”

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