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Organ Donation

This Woman Lost 40 Pounds to Donate Her Kidney to Her Coworker

Rebekah Ceidro is saving her friend's life, and her own.

Amber Brenza

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

When Rebekah Ceidro, 33, saw on Facebook last July that her longtime co-worker Chris Moore was in need of a kidney, her altruism kicked into gear.

Moore, who'd been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease just seven months earlier, shared news that his condition was worsening: In six months to a year, he'd need a new kidney; otherwise, he'd have to begin dialysis, a draining treatment to purify the blood that takes about four hours, three times a week. Moore is one of the nearly 100,000 Americans currently waiting for kidney—either from a living or deceased donor.

Ceidro wanted to help her friend avoid dialysis, so she connected with him and met with his doctors at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) to see if she qualified as a donor. A bunch of tests checked all of the necessary boxes—she had the same blood type and was in generally good health—except for one: At 218 pounds, Ceidro weighed too much to be a donor. Doctors told her she needed to lose 18 pounds.

"My actual thought was, 'I'm too fat to save my friend's life.' And that sucked, but that's at least something you can change," she told TODAY. The conversation made her recoil, but Ceidro knew the doctors were right. Most organ donation clinics have a body mass index (BMI) limit to protect the donor's' health. Some allow donors with a BMI up to 35, while others cap it at 30, which is considered obese; UPMC wanted a BMI of 32 or less. Obesity can increase a person's risk for type 2 diabetes in later life, possibly leading to diabetic kidney disease, so giving away one of your two kidneys may not be smart.

Ceidro got started on her weight-loss goal right away, signing up for a 5K held just two weeks later that was sponsored by the Eat'n Park restaurant where she works as a manager. Ceidro struggled during the race, but she vowed to keep running until she could do a 5K every day.

That goal came and went, and soon Ceidro replaced it with another: To run a half-marathon. After months of training—running up to six miles a day, six days a week; and weight training—Ceidro crossed the finish line of the UPMC Pittsburgh Half-Marathon on May 7 in three hours and 14 minutes. She told Moore in a Facebook post at the 10-mile mark: "All the miles before this were for you, but the end, those miles are for me."

Ceidro also surpassed her goal of losing 18 pounds; she's dropped 38 pounds so far. As part of UPMC's "What a Runner Looks Like" campaign, Ceidro said "I'm in the best shape of my life and I have my friend to thank. I may be saving his life, but he doesn't realize he saved mine."

Doctors at UPMC are currently prepping Moore and Ceidro for transplant surgery in the next three to six months and, barring any complications, Ceidro wants to run the Pittsburgh Marathon in May 2018.

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