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A decade ago, Kandy Takas endured a half dozen failed attempts at finding a matching kidney before receiving another page to call Life Connection of Ohio.
After locating a pay phone at Woodville Mall - cell phones, after all, were not as common then - the mother enjoying time with her son answered the page. Then panic struck.
"This precocious child sitting next to me, being 3, reached up and hung up the phone," recalled Ms. Takas of Millbury, eliciting a grin from her son, John, now 13. "I'll never let him forget this."
Yet the call was made again, and Ms. Takas went to the former Medical College of Ohio for testing to determine whether the match was a good one. After being called back hours later for surgery, Ms. Takas woke up the morning before her 34th birthday with a working kidney.
Ever since, she has celebrated both Oct. 9, the anniversary of the transplant, and Oct. 10, her birthday.
"I always say it was the greatest birthday present I ever received," Ms. Takas, who turned 44 on Sunday, said.
An active volunteer for Life Connection of Ohio, Ms. Takas said she speaks about the importance of organ donation in hopes of encouraging families to talk about their wishes.
There are many misconceptions about organ donation, including the mistaken belief that medical personnel will let those who designate themselves as donors die, she said.
More than 2,450 Ohioans are awaiting kidney transplants, while another about 800 residents are in line for other organs, according to Life Connection Ohio.
In the last decade, more than 2,000 Ohioans died waiting for an organ transplant, it said.
The only thing Ms. Takas knows about the donor of her kidney is that he was from Maryland, she said. She has written to the family but not heard back, she said.
Ms. Takas needed dialysis for more than 15 months after being diagnosed with IgA nephropathy.
The disorder is caused by IgA, a protein that helps the body fight infections, settling in the kidneys and damaging them.
"I was just tired all of the time, and I just couldn't figure out what was going on," Ms. Takas said. "I just thought, 'That's life with a 2-year-old.'•"
She added, "I kind of approached dialysis like life. He didn't really let me be sick. To him, I was just Mom."
Three months after the transplant, meanwhile, Ms. Takas returned to work. She will take anti-rejection medication for life, but she exercises regularly, watches what she eats, and has had no health issues.
And Ms. Takas and John, a Genoa Middle School eighth grader working on his Eagle Scout project, have enjoyed the last decade together. Last summer, for example, the duo enjoyed white-water rafting, ziplining, which is traversing an area on a pulley suspended from a cable, and other activities in West Virginia before heading to the National Boy Scout Jamboree in Virginia.
"It allowed me to go back and be a mom," said Ms. Takas, who is employed in human resources for The Andersons Inc. in Maumee. "It allows all of us to go on with our lives."