Stranger steps in to help Ferndale girl in need of transplant



Bio | Email

Posted on July 27, 2010 at 5:44 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:44 AM

SEATTLE - Six-year-old Olivia Cook has polycystic kidney disease, and judging by the crowd we showed you last May, a lot of supporters.

"It just touches your heart that she's so brave, that she's facing this, and it just touches your heart and you feel wonderful when you meet her," said Danica Kilander, Olivia's mom's fitness instructor.

Danica helped organize a barbecue in Bellingham.

It was part of a fundraising effort to pay Olivia's medical costs and find her a donor.

Then Danica decided to get tested herself? Bingo. She was a match.

"I couldn't find a reason why not to. It seems like such a small thing to do to save a life," she said.

That's what brought Danica to the University of Washington Medical Center almost two weeks ago. Her friend Ryan joined her. Other friends were en route.

"We got a text from her this morning when we were on our way … It said 'Good morning. It's a lovely day for a ... kidney transplant,'" said Mia Phillips.

Even at 6:30 a.m., Danica is in high spirits as she says goodbye to her mom.

"I think she's in the right place and the right time for this child. So I'm just praying that everything's going to go right for the both of them," said Danica's mother, Pam.

Danica's surgeon says the need for living donors is greater than ever.

"Now currently there's about 90,00 people are waiting on the list for a kidney. If these sort of things didn't happen, a lot of them would go untransplanted," said Dr. S Ramasamy Bakthavatsalam.

While friends keep her mother company in the waiting room, Danica is more concerned about Olivia.

"I gave her kisses and I told her I'd see her in a couple of days," said Danica. "She said she loves me."

The two surgeries, this one and Olivia's at Seattle Children's Hospital, must be carefully timed to keep the donor kidney as fresh as possible.

At 12:16, Danica's kidney is clamped off, removed and then taken to a nearby table, where it will be flushed and packed in ice for the journey to Children's. By 12:30 it's out the door and on its way to a waiting ambulance.

Today the story ends where it started: with Olivia. She now has a new kidney that Danica insists belonged to her new friend all along.

"I've become a better person though this. I've become more of myself and certainly. I don't think of it having less than who I am. I've doubled," she said.

The feeling is mutual.

"We are so grateful we found Danica. I mean she's part of our family now and it will always be that way. I mean we have. Olivia and I have such a special bond with her that will always be there," said Olivia's mother, Kimberly.

Olivia is out of the hospital now, but will be staying at Ronald McDonald House for the next few months for her follow-up appointments.

The song you heard was written and sung by Kris Orlowski in honor of Olivia.

More information

Children's Organ Transplant Associated Olivia Cook

Download Kris Orlowski's song for Olivia