PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A special barbecue picnic was shipped from Georgia to the home state of Pamela Locke.
She’s shared the feast with new friends as she awaits a living donor kidney transplant.
She has been in Pittsburgh since Dec. 1, staying at a hotel, getting dialysis treatments at a nearby center, and awaiting surgery.
She’s made friends with hotel staff and other guests, who are also transplant donors and recipients.
“We’re able to talk to one another, and tell our stories, so that’s how we met. The housekeepers to the drivers, everyone here at the Marriott is so awesome,” Locke said.
“How can you do this alone? Come to a strange city, you don’t know a soul,” Carolyn Santi of Tarentum said. She’s the wife of another transplant patient who befriended Locke.
“We try to do for them what we can,” David Brown, a van driver at the hotel who shuttles the patients to their appointments said.
Once Locke was so weak, he had to help her from her room to the van. He also helped to get her signed in at the hospital.
“It’s not like working at any other hotel I’ve worked at before. I mean with all the long-term hospital patients, you get to know these people, in a real personal way,” Doug Booher, who works at the front desk, said. “For some it works out for them, and for some it doesn’t.”
As it turns out, friends, new and old, have been a big part of Locke’s life these days.
Her old childhood friend, Cindy Comstock, gave her a new friend from Brooklyn. Laurie Collins will be giving a kidney to Locke. High blood pressure has caused her kidneys to fail.
“So Cindy just asked her, would you be willing to give my friend a kidney, and she said yes!” Locke said.
They will meet just after Christmas, the day before the operation.
“I’m really touched, I’m overwhelmed, I’m humbled. I wish everyone could be a donor,” Locke said.
She had a transplant in 2006 that was rejected. Now, she has a special blood filtering procedure called plasmaphoresis, to clear her blood of antibodies, in hopes of reducing the chances of rejecting the new kidney from Collins.
But for now, those thoughts are far away for these new found friends.
“It really feels like Christmas,” Locke said. “I’m very thankful, very thankful for the gift of life.”
At the moment, they are far more concerned with celebrating their sharing in many ways.