A pair of sisters who donated their kidneys in honor of their father’s memory, ended up generating a chain reaction that enabled five other Chicago-area individuals to receive kidney transplants.
Mark Goralski passed away in 2018 before he could receive one of his daughter’s kidneys. In March, the two sisters, 24-year-old Hannah Goralski and 25-year-old Bethany Goralski, decided to donate anyway in his honor.
“I felt badly because I couldn’t save my dad but I figured someone else deserves this kidney as much as he did,” Bethany said.
“At the end of the day we just wanted more time with our dad and I hope this person gets more time with their loved ones,” Hannah added.
Their father was in need of a kidney transplant but when their brother Josh donated his eight years ago, the kidney failed.
“We were told he would need a second transplant,” explained Bethany. “So I went and got tested to be his donor but was told at the time he was too sick for surgery.”
Melanie Mavec ended up receiving Bethany’s kidney instead.
“It was so cool to see how one person, in this case two wonderful people making a selfless decision to donate, can affect so many people and it’s not done yet,” Mavec said.
Each sister’s kidney donation started a chain where five people in need got to receive kidneys.
Mavec’s father, Richard Pollack, said he was willing to donate but unfortunately, was not a match for his daughter. When she got Bethany’s kidney, Pollack was able to donate to another individual in need, Christopher Heitz.
“Thanks to the sisters here, that opens up that possibility to truly regain our life,” Heitz said at a gathering in Northwestern Memorial Hospital Monday, where donors and recipients were invited to meet for the first time and hear how the sisters made a huge impact.
Julia Bauchwitz received Hannah Goralski’s kidney and she said she was grateful that she would be able to live a normal life now.
The transplant chains have merely started, and more are planned for the near future.
“These chains are still ongoing and more people getting transplanted because of their initial gift,” said Dr. John Friedewald, Northwestern Medical Director of Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation.
The Goralski sisters believe it’s what their father would have wanted.
“He was a very giving person,” Bethany said. “I think if he was healthy he would have done the same thing.”