Routine cardiac stress test turns into lifesaving gift

Erika Hosey, a cardiovascular technician at University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center, ended the year by giving a life-changing gift to a patient in need. While performing a routine cardiac stress test, she drummed up a conversation. She learned that her patient, Denise Butvin, had kidney disease and needed transplant surgery.

"Erika just blurted out…I'll give you my kidney," said Butvin. "I was in shock. I couldn't believe this was real."

While Butvin is a positive person, she has been through an emotional rollercoaster of ups and downs and on waitlists in Ohio and Pennsylvania for five years. Her family and friends were not an organ match. Both her sister and father were on dialysis for many years and passed away from kidney disease, so she knew how pressing this transplant surgery was.

Hosey started the process the next day, and after a few weeks of testing turned out to be a perfect donor match. "To be a kidney donor match for someone is really a shot in the dark," she said. "I felt like I was meant to be in that position, in that room with Denise. We talked about our family life and health struggles, and I connected with her in a way I haven't connected with anyone else." "When I got home from work that day, I told my husband 'I think I just gave away my kidney!'" Hosey reminisced. "I believe we're all put here to help people and we shouldn't shy away from tough situations just because we're nervous."

Hosey comes from a supportive family of organ donors and recipients. Her husband donated bone marrow to his father, and her mother received a cornea transplant.

A resident of Akron-Canton, Hosey not only changed a patient's life with her generous offer but was able to make a life change of her own. She took up running last year to get into shape, and now wakes up each morning at 4 a.m. to exercise. She would not have been healthy enough to offer to donate her kidney a year ago. "I'm glad I'm now at a healthy point in my life and I can give back," she added.

Butvin lives in South Euclid and loves to give back to the community. She regularly volunteers at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank and the Cleveland Kosher Pantry. She said she's not used to being on the receiving end of such generosity. "Erika is truly my angel," she remarked.

When people ask Hosey why she donated an organ to a friend who was a complete stranger just a few months ago, her answer is always 'Why wouldn't I!?' She hopes her 8- and 10-year-old children learn to always show others kindness from this experience.

Dr. Meelie Debroy performed Hosey's donor surgery, and Dr. Edmund Sanchez performed Butvin's recipient surgery on Dec. 11 at UH Cleveland Medical Center. Both patients are healthy, recovering and looking forward to spending the holidays with family and friends.

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