The donor is Tracy Schulenberg of Las Vegas. Her step-mother and step-grandmother both died of polycystic kidney disease, a genetic disease that stops kidney function. But years ago, her step-mother got a kidney transplant, significantly extending her life.
"I know what I'm giving and I know what they're going to get in return,"Tracy said. "I'm doing it because somebody else, unfortunately, died for me to get my mom for twelve more years. So I'm giving the three daughters their mom for however long."
Tracy is not biologically related to her step-mother. Her kidneys are healthy.
Ironically, one reason Tracy decided to try to donate is that she was recently laid off from her job. Since she had the time, she decided to find someone who needed a kidney, as a tribute to her step-mother.
She found the website, www.matchingdonors.com that connects patients with donors. After she set up a profile, dozens of people contacted her.
But it was the New York City woman named Paula that caught her attention.
"It was really my choice. I got to pick who I wanted and I thought they were the best family. And after meeting them, I'm very certain this is the right family," Tracy said. "If I can prevent her from having to do the dialysis like my mom did and add to her life, then I'm giving them what I was given," she says.
Tracy flew to New York City three weeks ago for tests and to meet the family.
She returned on Tuesday. The surgery to donate her kidney is set for Thursday at New York Presbyterian Hospital. Tracy will spend two to three days in the hospital. The recovery process lasts two to four weeks.
All through the process, she's been thinking of those extra years with the step-mother she cherished.
"I know this would make her happy," said Tracy, "to know that I did this for somebody else's mom."
NEW YORK AND TRI-STATE AREA NEWS