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Middletown resident donates kidney, helps save his brother’s life; Podoletz honored at ceremony

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 4/14/20

Nicholas Podoletz watched at least a dozen people die who he had gotten to know during his four years undergoing kidney dialysis treatments.

One, a 33-year old woman, Podoletz remembers …

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Middletown resident donates kidney, helps save his brother’s life; Podoletz honored at ceremony

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Nicholas Podoletz watched at least a dozen people die who he had gotten to know during his four years undergoing kidney dialysis treatments.

One, a 33-year old woman, Podoletz remembers “chit-chatting away with for four hours.”

“That’s not a pretty sight my friend, not a pretty sight,” he said.

But Podoletz, 63, no longer needs kidney dialysis, thanks to his younger brother, Jeffrey, of Middletown, who donated a kidney to Nicholas in June. Nicholas struggled with high blood pressure and diabetes, which made the donation necessary.

Jeffrey, 61, who lives in Pineford, was recognized for his donation Feb. 22 during the annual Living Donor Recognition Ceremony “Gifts of Life, Acts of Love,” held in King of Prussia by the Gift of Life Donor Program. Jeffrey is among 40 pairs of donors and recipients from the region who were celebrated at the event.

Jeffrey is a dock worker at the Yellow Roadway Corp. truck terminal near Carlisle. Nicholas worked there, too, until his health got too bad. His kidneys eventually shut down, putting him on dialysis.

One day Nicholas said, “‘Jeff, I’m not gonna make it.’ That’s when I decided to donate,” Jeffrey said.

Jeffrey had gone to a seminar about kidney disease. He woke up the next morning, called a hotline he learned about at the seminar, and said he wanted to donate his kidney to his brother.

The process took a little more than two years. Nicholas was in such bad health, including also being diabetic, that the doctors had to wait until he was healthy enough for the transplant.

That waiting was the toughest part of it all for Jeffrey.

“I was tested, all ready to go, but it took awhile to get him straightened out,” he said. 

The brothers underwent the transplant at UPMC Pinnacle Harrisburg on June 18.

“It wasn’t bad at all,” Jeffrey said of the surgery and his recovery. The worst thing was him missing seven weeks of work.

He was ready to go back in five, but the doctors said no.

Before the transplant, as Nicholas got worse and worse, Jeffrey worried that if he called and Nicholas didn’t answer, his brother would be lying on the floor of his house in Carlisle.

In times like those, Jeffrey would take off work to go and make sure Nicholas was OK, or go see him during his increasingly frequent trips to the hospital.

Now, instead of dialysis and three or four medical appointments a week, there’s no dialysis for Nicholas and hardly any appointments at all.

Jeffrey can tell the difference between then and now just by how Nicholas answers the phone, the energy in his voice that wasn’t there before. He’s no longer depressed.

Nicholas still has health concerns, especially now with the coronavirus. He is self-quarantined out of concerns over his health, and Jeffrey can’t visit him at home.

“I am immune deficient, so if I get it, I’m dead,” Nicholas said of the coronavirus.

The brothers have always been close, but it’s a closeness that is hard for either of them to put into words.

“It is what it is,” Nicholas said when asked about what his brother did. “It was nice of him to do that. He’s my brother, you know what I mean?”

“It’s kind of embarrassing” being called a hero for this, Jeffrey said. “The nurses, the doctors, the (transplant) coordinator — they are the real heroes. If you ask me especially now with the coronavirus, even the grocery store clerks — you’ve got to give them a lot of credit.”

Dr. Danielle E. Ladie performed the transplant.

Jeffrey encourages everyone who can to sign up as an organ donor. Just one organ donor can save the lives of up to eight people, he said.