When Sandra Galvan joined Condon & Company in June 2013 she never imagined she would meet the person who would become her soul sister and ultimately save her life. She and her fellow tax manager Sylvia Peralez quickly became fast friends, even removing a dividing panel from their shared cubicle wall to better see and talk to each other throughout the day. Their friendship branched out to their respective families, and each adopted the other’s family as their own.
In time, a story would unfold to expose the true depth of the roots that bound their friendship. In 1994, Sandra was diagnosed with Lupus, an autoimmune disease. Lupus was hard on her body and kidneys as she was now pregnant. Sandra and the baby were fine, but sadly her kidneys were not. The toll on her body eventually led to full kidney failure. In 1995, Sandra received a kidney transplant from her sister, SanJuana. Transplanted kidneys generally last 10 years, but Sandra’s transplanted kidney held up much longer. However, it began to fail at the beginning of 2016, and by March, had failed completely.
Now back on dialysis, Sandra’s urgent search for a new donor hit an immediate roadblock. Due to life-saving blood transfusions through the years coupled with the transplant from her sister, unique donor-specific antibodies had developed resulting in the need for a very specific match. Although many of Sandra’s family members were tested, none were a viable match. Enter Sylvia, mother of four, full time Condon tax manager, and now an eager volunteer for testing and the possibility of donating her kidney.
The two friends endured a grueling battery of tests to determine whether they were a match. When the results came back negative, it seemed all hope was lost. But other events would suddenly change the course of this story. There were two other patients on the kidney transplant list who faced the same dilemma and, like Sandra, had willing donors. Miraculously, Sylvia turned out to be a match with one of these patients in a donor/recipient exchange program that operates out of the Houston Methodist Hospital in the Texas Medical Center. Once Sandra and Sylvia stepped in, the surgeons at Methodist were able to complete the circle and create a six-way kidney swap.
The original recipient/donor pairs were Sandra and Sylvia, Danny and Doug, and Mariella and Ashley. Under the swap arrangement, Doug, recently retired from the Beaumont Police Department, would donate to Sandra. Sylvia would donate to Mariella, whose diabetes had caused her kidneys to fail. Ashley, inspired to donate after reading Mariella’s story on Facebook, would donate to Danny who is also a Beaumont police officer.
After waiting 3 months for all the donor pairs to prepare for surgery, the day arrived. It was an anxious day as their immediate family and their extended Condon family waited for updates on the surgeries. One by one, starting with Sylvia, they all were wheeled into the operating room and good news emerged with each surgery. Sandra was the last one in and her surgery took six hours. Although there were some complications, the six-way swap was now complete. When Sylvia was finally able to see Sandra the next morning, Sylvia heaved a tearful sigh of relief: “I could see in her face that the kidney was already working.” Sandra replied “I feel good enough to go dancing!”
Sylvia and Sandra, Danny and Doug, and Ashley and Mariella have become part of each other’s lives and the six of them communicate regularly, sharing life’s joys. All made possible because three generous and selfless people chose to give the gift of life.
To commemorate the special relationship that Sandra and Sylvia now share, Condon and Company gifted them matching “tree of life” necklaces. Condon has made a donation this year to Nora’s Home whose mission is to offer affordable lodging for pre-transplant and post-transplant patients and their families. “Even before the surgery, Condon felt like family,” Sandra explains, “but now it feels that way even more.”