MILWAUKEE — They are colleagues and friends, and that friendship led to a life-saving kidney donation.
It's a workplace friendship that's lasted for more than a decade. Tina Bajwa and Phil Hudson are longtime friends and colleagues at Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center. Little did they know this friendship would be lifesaving.
"I'm friends with his wife. We'd go out to family dinners. And once at a dinner, I told him I have this disease and down the road I told him I would need a kidney. And he figured out we had the same blood type as well,” Bajwa said.
That conversation was more than 10 years ago. This year, the talk finally manifested. Bajwa's inherited polycystic kidney disease finally needed to be addressed.
"In January of 2021, my nephrologist (a kidney doctor) told me that my kidney function has deteriorated enough that I would need a transplant,” Bajwa said. "I had tremendous support and I was trying to stay positive."
After rounds of testing between friends and family, it would be Hudson, her longtime friend, who would be the perfect match.
"[My wife] Mary and I told her that when it was time, she should call us, and we would help out,” Hudson said.
He said it was a no-brainer.
"She told me she'd gotten on the list and the next day I called our transplant clinic,” he recalled.
The procedure was done back in August. Today, both are thriving.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, an average of 13 people die each day around the country waiting for a kidney. Doctors note giving up a kidney to someone else is safe.
"We've realized with kidneys, if everything else is healthy, you can still donate a kidney and live a pretty healthy life,” said Dr. Ajay Sahajapal, Medical Director of the Abdominal Transplant program at Aurora St. Luke's.
The odds of Bajwa and Hudson's friendship turning into this might have been unlikely, but it happened. Bajwa said she's eternally grateful.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are 1,319 people waiting for a kidney in the state of Wisconsin, and 97,806 people on the waitlist nationally.
According to the National Kidney Donation Organization, there are 100,791 people waiting for a kidney as of today.