A Kidney for Kelly

As parents, we want to be there for those memorable moments with our kids. But for one mom in Bradford County, she has a one in a million chance to keep those special moments coming.

Kelly McNally of the Towanda area is a mother of six who's been battling kidney disease since 2011. It came out of nowhere. At first, she had no idea she was even sick.

"Ellen, I need your help! Please help me find a kidney," said Kelly.

McNally first got our attention and thousands of others, after a post on Facebook to talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.

"I am a 38-year-old mother of three and stepmother to three," explained Kelly. "I was diagnosed with kidney disease."

Her doctors say that her chances of finding a donor are one in a million. And Kelly McNally of Monroeton is hoping someone somewhere will be that match.

"I sent that to Ellen thinking it was only going to her and it was public and people from everywhere shared it," added McNally.

So far, there are more than 2,300 shares.

"I do worry about leaving my babies," said Kelly.

The responses to Kelly have been heartwarming, and the support from friends, including breast cancer survivor Tracy Miller, have been unwavering.

"She has so much to offer, not just to her family but to this community and to this world," explained Miller. "In honesty, she always puts herself last."

Miller says that's why she created the Kidney for Kelly page.

But finding a kidney match for Kelly has seemed impossible over the past seven years. Nearly 100 of her family members and friends have been tested, but no luck.

The reason? Kelly says her panel reactive antibody, also known as PRA, is so high.  Without that one in a million match, her body would most likely reject the kidney donation.

Right now, Kelly's kidneys are functioning at 4%.

"It's hard when your four year old knows your struggles," said Kelly.

Little Jagger Vargason, 4, told us about the machine to make his mom feel better. He said, "It's big and the tubes are hooked up to it."

Kelly adds, "That's the toughest part. I would cry while I was there. My kids are home, and here I am, sitting next to a machine hooked up. And Jagger wants me to lay with him at night and I can't and I'd be hooked up to a machine next to my bed."

Kelly's fiance, Rick Vargason who's she's been with for 13 years, is among the many trying to save Kelly. Rick signed up for a transplant program called "Paired Kidney Exchange."

He explained, "I'd donate my kidney to someone throughout the United States and they could turn around and donate their kidney back to her."

"Ellen, will you please help me find a kidney?" pleaded Kelly.

And this family in Bradford County knows, the request for Kelly isn't an easy ask.

"It's not like, 'Hey can I borrow 10 dollars.' It's a huge, huge deal," added Kelly.

"Dialysis is only going to help her for so long," explained Rachael Bair, Kelly's daughter. "I want her to see us grow. And I want her to be a grandmother to my kids in the far future."

And one final request from an eight year old to the most popular talk show host in the world, "I would ask her if my mom could be on her show. Because she needs a kidney and needs more people to know," said Brynsen Vargason.

"I believe Kelly is going to do wonderful things with this experience and it's not going to be in vain. And she can't do that if she's not here," added Tracy.

So far, there has been no response yet from The Ellen Show, but Kelly is still hopeful. The more people who get tested, the more Kelly has a chance of finding the kidney that'll save her life.

Kelly is on a national transplant list and has been on it for three years.

You can't donate if you have: high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney problems.

Wish to donate a kidney to save a life? 

Google “Geisinger Transplant” or go to Geisinger.org/transplant. Click on “Sign up to be a living donor” and fill out the brief form:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Date of birth
  • Phone number
  • Name of potential organ recipient

Geisinger’s transplant team will follow up with you to verify the information, then to review your medical history. If you pass those screenings, you’ll submit a blood sample to test your blood and tissue compatibility. You can stop by a local lab, or request a mail-in kit. There’s no cost to you for these screenings.

Are you a good candidate?

Before a transplant surgery is ever scheduled, doctors need to make sure you’re healthy and a good match for the potential kidney recipient. You will be evaluated by the donor team which includes a nephrologist, a surgeon, a nurse coordinator and a social worker.

You’ll have a series of lab tests, X-rays, and an electrocardiogram (EKG) performed to screen for your kidney function as well as liver function, heart disease, lung disease, hepatitis, and any past exposure to viral illnesses. You’ll also have urine testing done to make sure your kidneys are functioning normally.

To donate a kidney, you must:

  • Be over 18
  • Have a BMI under 35
  • Not have high blood pressure, diabetes, active cancer or active substance abuse
  • Not be pregnant

March is National Kidney Month. For more information about donating an organ, please visit Geisinger.org/transplant.

1 Comment

  • Thomas Daniels

    I know as humans our bodies are our bodies and no one can tell us what to, but i dont understand why more people dont sign up and volunteer. Kidney transplant and donation has come a very long way, and in the small amount of research i have read, there seems to be not very many complications you will suffer in the future with just one kidney. Im O-, so i make it a point to donate whatever i can as often as possibe.

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