MARION — Father’s Day has a whole new reason to celebrate for one Marion family. Jorge and Jourdyn Berry share more than just genes and personality traits.
Now, this father and daughter share an organ.
During Christmas of 2018, the Berry family was on vacation at Disney World when their dad, Jorge, noticed something was wrong.
He learned he was at Stage 2 kidney failure and had to immediately start dialysis. For the next two years, Jorge’s life was turned upside down.
“I would go in at eight in the evening on Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday and I would be released at four in the morning," Jorge Berry remembers. “And I am a teacher and so I would go to school and go to my classes and I would be dead tired.”
Jorge was placed on transplant list by the end of 2020, when his condition became more severe and he advanced to Stage 4. Little did he know, his little girl would save his life.
His daughter, Jourdyn, who was 25 at the time and living in New York City for work was already preparing to donate her kidney to her father.
“It wasn't even a decision and if it was it was the easiest one I ever made," Jourdyn Berry said. “And I am not even sure, I didn't even ask you, I just said I was doing it.”
Her choice to help her dad was a life changing gift.
“When I did realize she was going to do it, I was just worrying about her,” says Jorge Berry tearfully. “Sorry.... because it is very special. And like she said, she gets a free pass on all Fathers Days in the future.”
On May 24, Jourdyn and Jorge went in for surgery at Ascension St. Vincent in Indianapolis. Jourdyn’s kidney was successfully transplanted to her father Jorge.
“The next day I was a new person,” Jorge explained. “It was night and day how I felt, how relieved I was, how much energy I had. I think back to it, the last 10 to 15 years, you didn't realize how sick you were. I feel so much better now, so much.”
Now a month out from the procedure, Jourdyn is back in New York for work. Jorge is ready to get back to his teacher duties at Marion Community Schools where he teaches STEM and a “Common Sense” class to 5th and 6th graders. He is also looking forward to getting back to coaching soccer, which he has been doing for the past 40 years.
Jourdyn’s decision to step up and be a donor for her dad will impact other families as well. The kidney transplant list is overloaded.
According to the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network, more than 98,000 people are registered and waiting for a kidney transplant in the United States.
In Indiana, 869 people are on the wait list. The wait time can be anywhere between three and five years.
Dr. Alex Cantafio, a Transplant Surgeon at Ascension St. Vincent in Indianapolis, said the wait time can be anywhere between three and five years to get a kidney donor and kidney donations have declined because of the pandemic.
“With that organ shortage, a living donor not only helps the recipient and their potential loved one,” Dr. Cantafio said. “But it takes somebody off that list so the deceased donor organ that may have gone to Jorge is now available for someone else. So it does a couple of different things not just for Jorge but for the list as a whole."
Kidney donors who are not a match for a relative on the wait list can still donate to a stranger. In return, their loved one can receive a voucher to move up on the list when a match is found.
There is always a need to become a living donor. Both Indianapolis based Ascension St. Vincent and IU Health University Hospital have transplant centers.