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Kaleb & Mary Romero

Mary Romero

Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) and kidney transplants were a fact of life when Mary Romero was growing up. When she was 5, her Grandma had a transplant. Then later, her uncle and her dad had transplants as well.

With her interesting family medical history, young Mary found her high school science classes fascinating – particularly human anatomy and physiology. She knew that she had a 50/50 chance that she would have PKD and one day need a transplant, and in her class, she learned about DNA and blood types. But it wasn’t until she was 21 and had an ultrasound that she and her doctors saw the tell-tale images of what looked like little bunches of grapes – the cysts of Polycystic Kidney Disease – on her kidneys.

Mary was fortunate to have several years between her diagnosis and when transplant became necessary in her mid-30s. When it became apparent that she would need a kidney, she put the word out among her friends on Facebook. Over 15 of them called Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) to be screened as potential donors. But it was her coworker and friend, Ellie, who became her living donor “angel” on July 9, 2013. In an amazing twist of fate, Mary had the same transplant surgeon as both her grandmother and her uncle, Dr. John Barry.

The change Mary experienced after her transplant was dramatic. She describes it: “It feels amazing. I feel like I’m alive again! My skin turned back to pink. I can do so much more now. I can do more with my husband, Kaleb, and I am able to keep up with my 2 grandsons.”

With the return of her health and energy, Mary has also been able to volunteer with Donate Life Northwest since just a few months after her transplant. Her enthusiasm isn’t just limited to DLNW events, though. She says, “I tell everyone who will listen that I had a transplant. I tell my story, and then I ask if they’re a donor. If not, I explain how to go about registering.”

Mary, her father, her uncle, and her grandmother, are all members of a rare group – they are all grateful recipients of living kidney donation. To learn more about becoming a living donor or registering your decision to be an organ, eye, and tissue donor, you can visit our website or email