What started as a friendship between Tish Bruckner and Kristine Swifta decade ago is now the deepest, lifelong bond  few others may ever experience. It’s the bond between a living donor and a kidney recipient. Bruckner gave the gift of life to friend Swift, who was declining in health from Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD), in August of 2016 at the Transplant Institute of Florida(TIF) at Largo Medical Center(LMC).

(Left to right) – Kristine Swift, Kidney Recipient  and Tish Bruckner, Living Organ Donor
(Left to right) – Kristine Swift, Kidney Recipient and Tish Bruckner, Living Organ Donor

Roughly 20,000 people each year receive kidney transplants in the United States. “The living donor program is an integral part of that process,” says Hussein-Osman Mohamed, MD, PhD, FACS, Chief of the TIF. “Most people are not aware the risks are minimal for living kidney donors, and that major adverse events after donation are rare.”

Swift learned when she was 10 years old she had inherited PKD from her mother. “At age 49, my kidney function was down to nearly 20%. We knew it was time to begin the pre-transplant testing to get on the transplant list,” said Swift. “My Tampa nephrologist referred me to Largo Medical Center, telling me I would receive the best level of care and personalized service throughout the process.” In January of 2016, Swift was approved and added to the transplant list.

Bruckner said she knew Swift would eventually need a transplant and vowed, early on, to help. She flew in from Texas. Went through a living donor evaluation and learned she was a confirmed match on April 14, 2016. The transplant took place August 25. “I was so impressed by my entire experience at Largo Medical Center,” said Tish Bruckner, Living Organ Donor. “Everything from the scheduling, coordinating and how they took care of me to my doctors, nurses and coordinators. They were absolutely amazing!”

“Living donors like Tish Bruckner are the superheroes of our transplant program,” said Anthony Degina, Largo Medical Center, Chief Executive Officer. “They are brave and generous individuals who are creating public awareness about the life-saving benefits of organ donation and transplantation.”

Swift’s new kidney began functioning immediately. She said, “Everything is positive and I’ve had no episodes of rejection. I’m feeling very strong and have so much more energy. I’m 50 years old and plan on living a pretty normal life.”

“I feel great, and because of my donation, my life has actually changed for the better. I have a greater appreciation for what’s really important and I feel more confident in knowing what I can achieve,” said Bruckner. “I’m doing all of the things I used to do, including running an upcoming half marathon. I have extended my best friend’s life and get to spend more time with her because of it!”

The Transplant Institute of Florida at Largo Medical Center is the only hospital in Pinellas County approved to perform kidney transplants. The TIF opened in May of 2015. It’s located at 1301 2nd Ave. SW, Suite 314, Largo, Florida 33770.