Kidney donation runs in the family

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In addition to being relatives, Susie Percy, her brother Paul Bears, Jr., her father Paul Bears, Sr. and his brother-in-law Bill Cashell all have one thing in common — they each have one kidney.

“Kidney donation is a family affair,” says Susie.

Thirty-four years ago, Bill Cashell gave a kidney to his son Sean, who was born with a rare genetic condition called Alport syndrome. Eleven years later, when Sean needed a new kidney, his Uncle Paul, Sr. stepped forward. And nine years after that, when Sean was experiencing rejection, Paul Jr. offered to donate to his cousin.

Fast forward 14 years.

Bill Cashell’s grandson Joseph Abbott, an honor student and varsity soccer player, also born with Alport syndrome, finds himself needing a kidney. His mom’s cousin Susie doesn’t hesitate to offer hers.

“It is really strange, but I always knew it would be her,” says Joseph’s mom Mary Abbott. “We had a lot of people tested, but I always knew it would be Susie. They have good kidneys.”

Mary Abbott with her son Joseph, a kidney transplant recipient
Mary Abbott with her son Joseph

According to UNOS, the United Network for Organ Sharing, 21 people die each day because the organs they need are not donated in time. Joseph Abbott didn’t have to wait. Susie was a perfect match.

“It is my hope that by telling our story, those considering being an organ donor see that people who donate can continue to lead long, healthy and active lives and improve the lives of others,” says Mary.

On April 2, 2015, Joseph received his new kidney at Boston Children’s Hospital. Susie had her surgery right next door at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where adult donor surgeries take place. (The following is a video of Dr. Heung Bae Kim and team arriving at Boston Children’s with Susie’s kidney.)

“Being able to give our nephew and cousins a new life was never a question of, ‘Will I?’ but rather a statement, ‘Of course I will,’” says Susie.

One year later, Joseph is now 19 and doing remarkably well. He is attending college at Fitchburg State University and looking forward to the future. After working as a Certified Nursing Assistant during high school, he is thinking about a career in nursing.

“I am so happy he is healthy and he can move forward with his ambitions.” says Susie. “My family would tell anyone considering kidney donation to do it. It truly is the gift of life and nothing compares to that.”

three organ donors from one family
From left, Susie Percy, her dad Paul Bears, Sr. and her brother Paul Bears, Jr.

Learn more about the Boston Children’s Hospital Kidney Transplant Program.