Kidney donation to sister 'the right thing'

by Jeff Saunders | reporter Published:

Nordonia Hills -- Grace Hnas will turn 31 in February and her brother John Ray "J.R." Hnas is giving her a precious gift: One of his kidneys.

It will be Grace Hnas' second kidney transplant after receiving one from an aunt in April 2005.

"The disease that I have will come back and attack a new kidney," said Hnas, who grew up in Northfield Center. "They told me the max was seven to 10 years."

"It's been something I knew she would need and I wanted to do the right thing," said J.R. Hnas, who still lives in town. "She would do it for me if our roles were reversed. She's the strongest person I know and I wouldn't know what I would do without her."

Hnas has glomerulonephritis, an inflammation in the kidneys and can lead to kidney disease.

Hnas medical problems began when she was a senior in high school. J.R. Hnas said that he was ready to be tested for the 2005 donation, but with their aunt a match and the likelihood that Grace would need multiple kidneys over time, it was decided it would be better if Mills donated first because she was older.

"They decided to go with my aunt first and hold me in reserve," he said, adding that a couple of cousins are also possible matches for future donations.

"This won't ne the last kidney she'll need," he said.

It became apparent about a year ago that the kidney she received in 2005 was beginning to fail. Different treatments including medications were tried, "but it was kind of pushing back the inevitable," said Grace.

She began dialysis at the beginning of November and shortly after that, an evaluation confirmed that her brother was a viable donor candidate.

"It was a big relief for me when I went into the physical and found out I was a match," said J.R.

Dialysis is a three-day-a-week ordeal, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with each session lasting about five hours.

"The days I go to dialysis, I feel really tired and the days I don't go, I just feel really horrible," she said.

Hnas said her doctors hope that the transplant can be done by March. It had to be held off while she recovers from an infection, which began in the chest catheter used for dialysis and resulted in her temperature shooting up to as high as 106 degrees and a four-day hospitalization. She was released Christmas Eve.

"The infection in my blood almost killed me so that was scary," she said.

Hnas recently moved to Broadview Heights, but her father Allen and brother J.R. still live in Northfield Center.

She is on Medicare, but it will not cover all the costs of the transplant. She said she does not know how much extra will be needed, but the last transplant resulted in about $25,000 in out-of-pocket expenses.

There will be a fundraiser for her at the Seasoned Grill in Northfield Village, which Hnas said she only found out about around New Year's Day [see box].

"My brother and I really appreciate the support we've received," she said.

J.R. said he is grateful to Grace's friends for organizing the event, as well as the Seasoned Grill and various area businesses that have made donations to the event.

"There's a lot of people who just want to help. People are asking how they can help," he said.

Hnas said both diseases are incurable and there is no promise of a cure in the foreseeable future. But she said she is trying to remain positive.

"Hopefully, this transplant will go off without a hitch and I'll enjoy years of good health before I have to go through this again," she said.

"I really don't think that far ahead, or try not to," she added.

Email: jsaunders@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9432

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