NORMAL — Three people are able to enjoy Thanksgiving after a living kidney donation chain started by a Normal woman.

"I'm grateful that I don't have someone in my family touched by kidney disease," Terri Thede said. "I'm grateful that I was able to start it (the kidney donation chain)."

Thede, 55, spoke with The Pantagraph on Wednesday before a press conference announcing the success of the triple kidney donations at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood. That's where the three transplants were performed simultaneously — in three operating rooms with three surgical teams — on Aug. 10.

All three living transplant donors, including Thede, and all three transplant recipients are doing fine.

Most people are born with two kidneys but a healthy person may live with one kidney, which is why living donation of one kidney is possible for some people.

"It's amazing," Thede said of the three transplants being performed simultaneously. "I can't imagine what was going on behind the scenes."

"Loyola has the resources and experience to successfully complete such a complex and challenging endeavor," Dr. Raquel Garcia Roca said in a prepared statement. The surgeries were coordinated by Garcia Roca, Loyola surgical director of kidney transplant, and Dr. Amishi Desai, Loyola medical director of kidney transplant.

Thede, who was 54 at the time of the transplant, is married to Brad Thede and they have three adult children. She is volunteer coordinator at Faith in Action, the organization that helps to keep older adults at home by coordinating volunteers to drive them to medical appointments.

But she wasn't working yet at Faith in Action when she heard about a boy in Kentucky who needed a kidney.

"I've always been a blood donor and, to me, the idea of surgery isn't frightening," Thede said. "I read about what kidney dialysis would mean for this family and I educated myself on the process (to become a living donor).

"I was between jobs so it (being a living donor) seemed like an easy fix," she said.

She went through the medical and psychological assessment and doctors concluded that she and the boy were a match. The surgery was scheduled for June but a kidney became available from a deceased donor so that was transplanted into the boy.

"I was cleared for surgery so I contacted the donation coordinator at Loyola," she said. After she was approved for surgery by Loyola, she was asked if she wished to start a kidney donation chain, which would take more time and coordination. She agreed.

"I didn't have a high level of fear," she said. "I was fascinated with everything going on."

Thede's kidney was transplanted into William Parra, 72, of Bridgeview, whose kidneys were failing because of diabetes.

"This lady is going to heaven," Parra said of Thede.

Parra's wife, Paula, agreed to donate a kidney to Vitalii Stasiuk, 34, of Franklin Park, who had been on dialysis for nearly a year after his kidneys failed because of a disease called IgA nephropathy. Stasiuk's mother, Svitlana Gotska, whose kidneys were too small to donate to her son, donated her kidney to Irene Zapata, 61, of Chicago, who was on dialysis after her kidneys failed because of diabetes.

"I feel like a new person," Zapata said.

Thede had one 3½-inch-long incision and three ½-inch-long incisions.

"They were stitched internally and closed with glue outside," she said. She returned home the next day, was off prescription painkillers the following day, began work at Faith in Action 3½ weeks after surgery and felt 100 percent five weeks after surgery.

"I would hope (my experience) would help to raise awareness about the topic of living organ donation," Thede said. "If people knew more about it, more people would be interested."

Follow Paul Swiech on Twitter: @pg_swiech

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Health Editor

Health Editor for The Pantagraph.

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