Coworkers discuss donor program after successful transplant


When two local women became friends at work, they had no idea they would one day be connected by a special, life-saving bond.

And when some say laughter is the best medicine, they’re talking about Melanie Wagner and Helen Nielsen.

KRQE News 13 first introduced you to the two back in April.

Nielsen has been fighting polycystic kidney disease for most of her life. The disease is an inherited disorder in which cysts take over the kidneys, causing them to enlarge and lose function over time. Nielsen was in need of a transplant.

“I didn’t realize how sick I was prior to surgery,” she said. “I had been getting sick slowly over time.”

She also had a handful of potential donors, that after several tests, just didn’t work out. That was until she found Wagner, a co-worker just a crosswalk away at the downtown Lovelace Medical Center.

“Tuesday, the ninth of May, we both went into surgery,” Nielsen said.

The two spent weeks recovering at home with their families. Both have since returned to work. Now that they’ve conquered this, their next mission is to spread the word about the power of being a living donor.

“It’s kind of nice that we know each other so we can spread the word and discuss the disease,” Wagner said.

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