MNITF is grateful for the incredibly generous and ongoing support of our donors, who allow us to continue our life-saving research, education and innovation around end-stage renal disease. Transplantation is a transformative experience, and the supporters whose stories appear below have experienced first-hand the gift of another chance at life.
Supporters – Carl Korn, MD, and Sandra Korn
One day in late January 1971, Dr. Carl Korn was walking through the hallways of LA County/USC Medical Center, where he was an attending physician. There he encountered Drs. Robert and Rafael Mendez, whom he had known for many years, since they were in training together at USC Medical Center. The Mendezes asked Carl how things were going, and he told them that his father had just died while on dialysis, on the same unit where he had admitted patients while a medical student, intern, and resident at LAC/USC Medical Center. Carl shared that his father had had polycystic kidney disease, and was just 65 years old at the time of his death. Robert Mendez looked at Carl with a puzzled look as Carl touched Robert on the chest, over his heart, and tearfully said, “Someday, you’re going to save my life.”
In November 2002, Carl was placed on dialysis for end-stage renal disease, with little chance for survival without a transplant. He chose to see Dr. Robert Mendez, who with his brother Rafael, were founding heads of the transplant team at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Los Angeles. By then they were world-famous transplant surgeons, running a new program that had been instituted in early 2002. This program made the organs of persons over the age of 55 who had died of non-cancerous, non-infectious, non-type 1 diabetes mellitus, more readily available than younger organs for transplant recipients, and Carl signed up for this program immediately.
After having the extensive work-up required for all potential transplant recipients, Carl’s enlarged polycystic kidneys were removed by Dr. Robert Mendez at the end of January 2003. Just six and a half weeks later, the Mendezes’ coordinating nurse called Carl and his wife, Sandra. It was March 14, 2003, and the Korns were watching “Wheel of Fortune.” The nurse excitedly shared that the deceased donor kidney of a 68-year-old woman was available. The woman had died of unknown causes on March 13, 2003, but she did not have a history of any medical problems. Carl said to the coordinating nurse, “I’ll be at the hospital in 15 minutes!”
Carl knew he had little time left; he was doing poorly on dialysis. He said to Sandra, “I’ll bet this 68-year-old woman died doing something that was either very fun for her or very aggravating.”
The kidney transplant was placed just in time, within the necessary period for transplants, on the morning of March 15, 2003, and it began working almost immediately. On the night that Carl arrived home from the hospital, he and Sandra received a phone call from their dentist friend who had had a Halloween costume party six months previously. About three weeks later, the dentist called to check in again and asked Carl and Sandra if they remembered a great friend of his that Sandra had taken many pictures of during the party. The dentist’s friend was named Beverly, and both Carl and Sandra had spent most of the party talking to her. Beverly had been a teacher of gifted children, she shared many interests with Carl and Sandra, she had recently retired to the home of her dreams, and unbeknownst to Carl and Sandra, had just given her first docent tour at a Southern California museum on March 13, 2003. Beverly had been thrilled to do the docent lecture, but after she had finished the tour, she felt peculiar, so she decided to sit down and have a glass of wine. Shortly thereafter, she developed a headache and took a couple of aspirins, and died in the ambulance on her way to the hospital.
The Korns learned that Beverly had had a pink dot on her driver’s license, indicating that she was an organ donor, and they had the solemn realization that the odds were very high that this lovely woman was Carl’s kidney donor. Carl had been right. Beverly had died right after doing something that was very fun and meaningful to her. From that day on, Carl and Sandra began to carry Beverly’s picture with them, and they thanked God daily for Dr. Robert Mendez, his staff, and most especially, Beverly.
Sadly, MNITF’s long-time friend, Dr. Carl Korn passed away on November 5, 2013 of health complications. Carl lived to age 76 and for the previous several years had resided in Charleston, S.C. Carl remained a loyal supporter of the MNITF, directing donations to physicians and research, and he and Sandra sponsored and attended many MNITF fundraisers. He is greatly missed.
“A Tale of Two Sisters…And a MNITF CEO”
Supporters – Maralyn and Justin Dooley
Maralyn and Madalyn were very devoted sisters whose lives were forever changed through the beautiful experience of Living Donation. Madalyn had been a diabetic since she was six years old, but managed to live a healthy life for many years until her kidneys failed as an adult. With no other option than to go on dialysis, Madalyn struggled, and over time as Maralyn watched her vibrant, funny sister begin to fade and not enjoy her life, she knew she had to something.
It was Maralyn who finally decided that the best thing that she could do was to give Madalyn the “gift of life,” by donating one of her kidneys. Madalyn never asked and at first resisted, but Maralyn insisted – she wanted to become a Living Donor.
On March 19, 1991, Dr. Rafael Mendez removed a kidney from Maralyn and with his twin, Dr. Robert Mendez, transplanted Maralyn’s kidney into her sister Madalyn.
Ten years after the life-giving donation, Maralyn and her husband, Justin Dooley, wanted to do something special for the MNIT in honor of the 10-year anniversary of Madalyn’s transplant. The Dooleys sponsored a Rodeo as a fundraising event, with the proceeds going to MNIT. Incredibly, $100,000 was raised to support the institute’s research and education programs.
Over time, the Dooley support continued. Knowing and having witnessed first-hand the daunting struggles a person with kidney failure faces, Justin decided that he wanted to personally make a difference. He expressed an interest in becoming involved with MNIT, and was invited to serve as a board member for both MNIT and MNITF in 2003. An active member, Justin was then asked run the institute in 2005, and he left the corporate, for-profit world to become the CEO.
Justin and Maralyn continue to show their support by being major sponsors at MNITF fundraising events, and Maralyn’s beautiful story of becoming a Living Donor for her sister was featured in the documentary, Fixing Paco: Changing Lives.