♥ 15-year-old NJ girl is alive thanks to her mother's selfless gift

♥ The girl needed a life-saving transplant and her mom gave her a kidney

♥ Read their story of gratitude below

A true miracle of love story this holiday season out of Union County.

The Diagnosis

15-year-old Kaitlin Siegel of Clark had inherited a genetic mutation at birth from her father Ken. The rare nerve disease called Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, or CMT for short, causes problems with the nerves in her hands and feet, so much so, that she’s already been through three reconstructive surgeries on her feet.

The specific type of disease that Kaitlin has can also cause kidney failure, said her mom, Jennifer Siegel.

In June 2023, during a routine kidney checkup, doctors found that Kaitlin’s kidneys were only functioning at 10% and she needed either a kidney transplant or dialysis as soon as possible.

This made sense because Kaitlin had expressed how sick and tired she felt all the time.

Unfortunately, her father, a three-time kidney transplant recipient was not eligible to be a donor for Kaitlin, plus he also has the same gene mutation.

Luckily, Jennifer got tested and she was a match. The transplant happened on Aug. 2, 2023, at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston.

Siegel said she was thrilled to find out she was an immediate match for her daughter. No other family members or friends had to be tested, making the process, smooth, simple, and fast.

“By the day of her transplant, she (Kaitlin) was in complete kidney failure and she would’ve needed dialysis the next day if we didn’t have the transplant that day. It was definitely amazing that I was able to do this,” Siegel said.

Kaitlin said she feels she can live a normal 15-year-old life now. “Before, I didn’t really want to go out with my friends and I didn’t want to do anything. But now, I’m able to go out with my friends, no problem. I also had a lot of anxiety revolving around all this. Now, that’s all gone since I had the surgery and I feel like I can live a normal life,” she said.

Jennifer and Kaitlin Siegel
Jennifer and Kaitlin Siegel

The Surgery

The process was wonderful, said Siegel. She owes everything to Kaitlin’s nephrologist Dr. Maria Isabel Roberti. All of Jennifer’s testing was rushed in order to avoid dialysis for her daughter. As soon as she filled out the inquiry that she wanted to be a kidney donor, it was only two days later when the living donor transplant center contacted her and assigned her a donor coordinator, named Donna who explained everything from the testing process to the surgery itself. This put Siegel and her daughter immediately at ease.

“We’re very lucky that our medical problem had a solution,” Siegel said.

Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center

How is everyone feeling?

For Jennifer, the kidney donor, she said she feels like nothing has happened. Now that her body has recovered from the surgery, her life has resumed with no pain and frequent trips to the gym again. Just seeing Kaitlin healthy and happy is all that matters to her, she said.

Kaitlin said she has her energy back. She is excited to go on trips in 2024, and she’s especially excited to go to Broadway shows. She and her mom are big Broadway buffs. They go to a lot of shows together, but before the surgery, she would often feel sick, nauseous tired, and not able to enjoy all the singing and dancing on The Great White Way. One show that is on their list to see is “Back to the Future” at The Winter Garden Theater.

“Seeing your child sick is the worst thing ever for any parent. Seeing her so bad before, and seeing her so good now is the most unbelievable thing,” Siegel said.

Kaitlin said she feels amazing almost four months post-surgery and didn’t realize how grateful she would be until after it all happened. “I’m so grateful for my mom, so grateful that I can hang out with my friends, and so grateful that I can just live like a normal person,” she said.

Portable fridge for transporting donor organs on the wooden table, 3D rendering

Be an organ donor

Siegel cannot stress how important it is to become an organ donor. As long as you’re healthy before the transplant, people can live a normal, healthy life with just one kidney. Your lifestyle won’t change. If anything, the donor will be healthier because doctors will follow the donor every three to six months.

“Anyone out there who can donate and wants to donate, definitely should. I would do it again. I wish I had 100 kidneys to give because I would do it a million times over,” Siegel said.

A living donor’s transplanted kidney does last longer in the recipient than a deceased person’s transplanted kidney, Siegel said. She is beyond blessed that she was able to be a living donor for her daughter.

Kaitlin has a new lease on life at just 15 years old. She said she is forever grateful that her mother was a match for her and that she did not have to wait for one. She is aware that if her mom was not a match, she would have had to go on dialysis, which would have been rough.

Both mom and daughter are looking forward to a happy, and most importantly, healthy 2024.

If you are interested in becoming an organ donor, here are a couple of links to check out.



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