Tiffany Runkle remembers the day she found out she might have a health problem.
She was 15 years old.
“You know the machines you use to check your pressure?” Runkle said. “Mine was like 200 over 150.”
The extremely high reading led to a lot of medical testing.
“They finally found my ureters were constricted,” Runkle said.
Doctors inserted stents and years went by until it was time for a checkup.
“I had some blood work done,” Runkle said. “I was in stage-four kidney failure.”
Runkle started home dialysis in 2010 and was put on a waiting list for a kidney.
“I went years waiting,” she said.
Her O-negative blood type meant she could receive a kidney only from an O-negative donor. The long wait took a toll on the York County 911 employee.
“I hate to complain and I hate to just talk about it really, but this is so miserable. I’m so depressed,” she said.
Her plight captured the attention of Lauren Gydosh, a dispatcher for Penn State Health’s Life Lion Communications Center.
“I knew that Tiffany had issues with her kidneys the whole time we worked at York 911 together, but I never knew how bad it was until one of her friends posted on Facebook,” Gydosh said.
“Lauren saw that post and said it really just spoke to her, and that’s what made her consider getting tested,” Runkle said.
The results were soon delivered to Tiffany’s job.
“I go into the room and there is a box. There was a note on it that said, ‘Tiffany, open this’,” Runkle said.
Inside was a plush kidney set up for surgery.
“There was a certificate saying that the surgery was scheduled and I was getting a new kidney and that Lauren was the donor,” Runkle said.
April 3 was donation day at Penn State Health.
“I remember being wheeled back on the bed and they stopped me by Tiffany’s room,” Gydosh said.
They spent a few minutes together before being rolled into the operating room.
“They put a mask on me and said breathe in really deep, and honestly, that’s all I remember,” Gydosh said.
Hours later, Gydosh woke up to good news.
“When her surgeon came down to talk to me, to tell me how her part went, he said your kidney is like bionic, it started working before we even put it in her. He said it’s the perfect size. It couldn’t have been the more perfect match,” Gydosh said.
“She’s given me the gift of life and I want to make sure I take care of that every day for the rest of my life,” Runkle said.
Lauren and Tiffany are doing well. Runkle also has a friend who needs a kidney. She’s hoping more people will consider live donation.