Dr. Tanner Needs Our Help!

I am writing to share a letter I received from former Penn Brook Principal Donna Tanner  asking for our help as she personally  battles a serious medical crisis. As you will see from the letter, Dr. Tanner has a serious kidney disease that has progressed to the stage where she needs a kidney transplant to avoid being placed on dialysis to keep her alive.  As a former employee and a friend to many, Donna gave many years to the children of this town as part of our community  and  I would like to do everything possible to help her in her fight.  Please feel free to share this information with your networks in an effort to help find a donor for Donna. I know that Donna will appreciate it!  Please read the letter from Donna below.

Dear Family and Friends,

I am writing to share with you my current health challenge and ask for some help. As you all know, I am a very private person so writing this letter is very difficult. Many of you might not know – I have had polycystic kidney disease most of my life – it is an inherited disease. My Dad had polycystic kidneys and passed away because he spent too much time on dialysis to be eligible for a transplant. My brother also has PKD and has had 3 kidney transplants over the years. I watched both my father and brother go on dialysis and I saw the toll it took on both. My brother is one of the strongest people I know.

Well, my kidneys have begun to fail and they will not be able to keep me alive. On a steamy day in July, I went to the doctor for a routine checkup. I was feeling fine, but a basic blood test revealed that my kidneys were functioning at about 15 percent of normal capacity. One nephrologist I went to predicted that within roughly six months to a year I would need to begin dialysis. Three days a week, for four debilitating hours at a time, I would be tethered to a blood-cleansing machine. Even simple things like traveling to see friends or to golf would be limited. This would very likely continue for at least five years until my name crawled to the top of the national list of people waiting for kidneys from the newly deceased. On average, 12 names, the death toll from the ever-growing organ shortage, would be scratched off the list each day. So what I am facing now for treatment options are limited to dialysis treatments or a kidney transplant.

Humbly, I am asking if you or anyone you know might be willing to be tested as a potential living donor. Living donor transplants represent the best opportunity for positive long-term outcomes, and provided I am able to find a suitable match, my medical team is confident this surgery is my greatest chance for living a longer,healthier life.

I realize that donating a kidney is an incredibly generous act, as well as a major sacrifice. I wish that I did not have to ask anyone to make such a sacrifice, but I am incredibly grateful that this option exists.Asking a family member or a friend to consider donating a kidney to me is difficult, but it greatly improves my chances of getting a transplant. A living kidney donation typically lasts longer and has better function. I am an O bloodtype– so a match is important for the success of the transplant.

If donating a kidney to me is something you would be willing to do, you can confidentially contact my transplant team at Brigham and Women’s Hospital directly at bwh.donorscreen.org

The success of a kidney transplant is staying off regular dialysis treatments. Finding a kidney for a transplant is not easy. Time is not on my side. Some wait for years; many die while waiting. The average wait time is five years or more for a kidney. If you can help, please do. If you know anyone who might, please forward this on. Forwarding this to your family, friends, work, school, congregation, or any other communities you belong to would be most gratefully appreciated.

You might not know a lot about living donation – I know I didn’t before kidney disease affected my family. Understandably, some people are afraid about the surgery and what living with one kidney will mean for them. Here’s some basic information about kidney donation:

  • You only need one kidney to live a healthy, long life. (My Mom donated her kidney to my brother 20 years ago and is now 85 years old)
  • Most donor surgery is done by a small incision laparoscopically meaning through tiny incisions.
  • The recuperation period is usually fairly quick, generally less than two weeks.
  • The cost of your evaluation and surgery will be covered by my insurance.

You will have your own separate team of healthcare professionals to evaluate you as a living donor. Their job is to look out for YOUR best interests. Thank you for taking the time to read my story and for helping me by sharing my story with everyone you know. I am hopeful my efforts will help me receive a kidney sooner before I have to go on dialysis. Even though my sister in law’s kidney was not a match for my brother she was tested to swap her kidney so my brother could receive a kidney in a swap, he then found a match – but she decided to donate her kidney to a family friend and both are doing fantastic!

For someone to be an organ donor is incredible but to donate an organ while you are still alive is the ultimate sacrifice and one of the most inspirational act anyone can do. As you read this, I want to be clear that I would only want a donor that does not feel forced or pressured in any way into donating to me. I understand that this is an extremely personal decision. As I said before, I am doing this with the hope that it may yield a positive result for me. I would be happy to tell you more about my story

Thanks for taking the time to read my letter and considering making a live donor transplant. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions (978) 273-2539 or call my transplant coordinator, Nancy Minghella (617) 525-8409,and have a confidential conversation about living kidney donation, and get answers to any questions you have. If you want to be a potential donor your first contact must be to a Living Donor nurse at bwh.donorscreen.org –to submit the application and take a blood test to see if you are a match for O type blood.

Thank you so much. Words cannot express how much this would mean to me.


Donna L. Tanner