San Antonio woman donates kidney to save co-worker

The women are part of a living donor exchange program.

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Crystal Villarreal, left, and Karen Crane, right

SAN ANTONIO – Two San Antonio women, who are coworkers and best friends, will both go under the knife Friday as one is donating a kidney to help save the other.

Crystal Villarreal and Karen Crane, who both work at Pediatric Ear, Nose & Throat Institute of South Texas, have been friends for eight years. Villarreal wore a bridesmaid’s dress during Crane’s wedding just last month and now, Crane will wear a surgical gown for Villarreal.

Villarreal suffers from polycystic kidney disease and is in the end stage of renal failure.

“Polycystic kidney disease is an inherited disease that came from my dad’s side of the family,” said Villarreal. She explained that it makes her tired and fatigued and told KSAT that she has to “nap frequently throughout the day and I can’t do a lot of my normal physical activities that I used to do before because I just get so tired.”

Villarreal, who was diagnosed when she was 19-years-old, said she went to a transplant center in July to add herself to the list for a transplant from a cadaver donor.

“I was out on vacation in July and I had my appointment for the transplant center within that timeframe,” said Villarreal.

When she arrived back at work, she said Crane had “already done the initial screening with the transplant center and was cleared and passed through that part, and then was scheduled to have her labs done that following week to start the process.”

Villarreal won’t actually be receiving her friend’s kidney. The women are part of a living donor exchange program. Crane is donating one of her kidneys so that Villarreal can get a kidney from someone else. It’s a program known as a kidney swap or kidney donor train.

“There will be a total of eight people that are going in for surgery,” said Villarreal. “She was a match but there was one tissue in her blood that wasn’t a 100% match for me, so she was paired up with me because she is willing to donate her kidney to someone else and that person’s pair will be able to donate to me.”

Villarreal will be in recovery for six to eight weeks she said.

Crane told KSAT that Villarreal will be “in the hospital for anywhere from three to seven days whereas I will most likely be there, God willing if everything goes well, just one night. So that will be the difference between our two stays.”

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