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Holiday resident has Facebook to thank for kidney donor

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Published:   |   Updated: December 11, 2013 at 09:10 AM

HOLIDAY — Seven years ago, Holiday resident Christine Curti started struggling with memory loss and exhaustion. She was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease in her one and only good kidney- Curti was born with only one of the organs. Fundraisers helped put a small dent in a lifetime’s worth of medications and medical consultations but one thing — the most important thing — was missing.

Curti needed a kidney donor.

Donations come from one of two means: either the organ becomes available when an organ donor dies or a live organ donor decides to give uphis or hers and lives with only one.

Live kidney donations average several years longer but are harder to get. Those who need kidney transplants often wait for years for the organ to become available but thanks to the social networking site Facebook, Curti has been given a new start.

Valerie Maupin, a 24-year-old from San Diego, Calif.,visited the Facebook group Find a Kidney Central after she attempted to donate to a friend’s mother but wasn’t a match. On the site, she read stories about people in need and connected with Curti.

Six other potential donors had been tested, but no match had been found, so Curti wasn’t counting on Maupin to be a match. When Maupin came to Florida to undergo the tests, she and Curti spent the day together.

“I absolutely adore Valerie,” Curti said. “She’s the complete opposite of what you might expect.”

Curti described Maupin as “covered in tattoos, a biker and a beautician. She is just an adorable sweet, kind soul. She is a true altruistic donor and has asked for nothing.” Maupin is also a full-time nursing student who hopes to be an ER physician one day and who spent time as a medic in the military.

After a lifetime of medical complications and more than three years of nightly dialysis, Curti was floored when Maupin was not only a match, but insistent on donating the kidney. Curti told her she could change her mind up until the moment they both hit the surgical table and she wouldn’t be upset.

Maupin didn’t change her mind and on Nov. 13, Curti was the “proud new momma” of a new kidney.

“It’s hard to believe I have a 24-year-old kidney in my 50-year-old body,” Curti said. “Valerie told me we are family now then the two of us cried.”

Curti spent 10 days in the hospital after the surgery, then complications made her spend the Thanksgiving holiday there. Curti takes dozens of pills a day — steroids, antibiotics, vitamins, anti-rejection medications — and is staying in a hotel suite near Shands Hospital at the University of Florida in Gainesville, where Curti had her transplant, until she’s stable enough to go home.

With a new kidney, half the renal failure battle has been won but there’s still a war to fight. The cost of the kidney transplant and a lifetime of related medical care.

The average kidney transplant costs approximately $250,000 and that’s only the beginning. Even with health coverage, Curti faces significant expenses related to the surgery. For the rest of her life, she will need follow-up care and daily anti-rejection medications.

To overcome these financial challenges, Curti turned to the National Foundation for Transplants for assistance. NFT is a nonprofit organization that helps transplant patients raise funds to pay for medical expenses.

“It breaks my heart that Christine has been through so much,” said Samantha Palazolo, NFT fundraising consultant. “But when I heard about Valerie, I was blown away at the generosity and selflessness of this woman.”

Curti is continuing local fundraisers. She held one Nov. 30 at VFW 7845 in Port Richey, where her husband Kevin’s band, KC and The Vocal Chord, performed.

Media outlets all over the country have reached out to Curti and Maupin to share their story. Through it all, Curti hopes to pay it forward.

“Valerie is the amazing person,” Curti said. “She’s given me a gift and I never thank her enough or pay her back for it”

To make a donation to Curti’s honor, visit http://patients.transplants.org/christinecurti. Mail contributions to: NFT Florida Transplant Fund, 5350 Poplar Avenue, Suite 430, Memphis, TN 38119. Write “in honor of Christine Curti” in the subject line.

dmiller@suncoastnews.com (727) 815-1067

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