TAMPA, Fla. — Marianne McGiffin was starting to think she wouldn’t be able to play with her four grandkids much longer.

“I know what was in store for me,” she said.

McGiffin should stick around a while longer, though, thanks to the selfless donation of a co-worker.  

McGiffin sat side-by-side with the woman who saved her life last week during a news conference at Tampa General Hospital. Both smiled as they retold the story that now connects them.

“I definitely want to encourage folks to consider it,” Dr. Melanie Altizer said of living donation. “Had someone told me three years ago I would have moved to Florida and be giving up a kidney, I would have thought they had taken leave of their senses but it was just one of those things that felt right from the very beginning.”

Altizer and McGiffin have worked together for 18 months. McGriffin interviewed her for a position in the OBGYN practice McGiffin manages in Fort Myers. One afternoon after Altizer was hired, McGriffin revealed she had been fighting end-stage renal disease for two years.

“I realized by her reaction I’d never told her about it,” said McGiffin.

The new doctor’s instincts kicked in.

In August 2018, Altizer told her co-worker that she was a donation match. They got word of a February surgery date just before Christmas.

“Best Christmas present ever,” said McGiffin with a smile. “We had great confidence in the hospital and the surgeons. I was looking forward to feeling better.”

The successful transplant surgery took place at TGH on Feb. 27. It was performed by Dr. James Huang. It took 2.5 hours to remove Altizer’s kidney and another 3.5 hours to connect it with its new home inside McGiffin.

The procedure changed both women’s lives.

“Embracing for the first time after the surgery was amazing. Marianne has become like another family member,” said Altizer before pausing. “I’m rarely at a loss for words.”

Maybe words. But, she won’t be at a loss for friendship.

“She is my hero and will be for the rest of my life,” chimed McGiffin with a smile.  “It has meant the difference between being sad and blue and being joyful.”

Tampa General Hospital has performed over 100,000 transplant surgeries.

April is National Donate Life Month, which shines a spotlight on living and deceased donors of organs and tissue.

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