Kidney Transplant: A Lifesaving Friendship

Patricia Littlefield developed kidney failure and received a kidney transplant in 2016 from her friend and neighbor, Judith Mroczka.

Patient Story Highlights

  • An illness from college days decades prior led Patricia Littlefield to develop kidney failure, requiring a kidney transplant.
  • In 2016, a friend and neighbor, Judith Mroczka, gave Patricia the lifesaving gift of one of her kidneys.
  • In 2020, Judith and Patricia celebrated four years since transplant surgery and the memories and opportunities that followed.

In the mid-70s Judith Mroczka lived on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. and led an active life as a lawyer for the Public Defender Service for D.C. She was a former newspaper reporter and editor. Judy was also involved in extracurricular activities in the city. While playing volleyball, she met Patricia Littlefield. The pair became great friends and were neighbors in Capitol Hill. When Judy and her husband decided to move out of D.C. in 1993, they bought a house in a Maryland suburb. Two years later, Patricia bought the house next door.

Over the years, Judy and Patricia kept busy and continued to build their friendship. Patricia, an avid traveler, took five to six domestic trips and five to six international trips each year.

In 2015, Patricia announced to Judy and her husband that she needed a new kidney -- an illness from her college days had compromised her kidneys. “My husband and I both immediately got tested and we were both matches,” Judy recalled. “We then had to make the decision about whether or not we should donate.

Patricia smiling on a beach

The Journey to Becoming a Donor

One by one, other donors got eliminated for various past medical issues or because they did not meet certain criteria. Judy’s husband made the brave decision to become Patricia’s saving grace and donate his kidney, but he was eliminated as a donor. Judy then stepped forward.

Once Judy was approved as a prospective donor, Patricia’s condition began to deteriorate. Judy’s medical team at Johns Hopkins Comprehensive Transplant Center (CTC) made it clear to Judy that they could not rush the evaluation process. Judy was their priority, and it was essential for them to make sure that she could function with just one kidney.

To ensure that Judy met the criteria to be a donor, she went through extensive testing and review, including one 11-hour day at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, where she underwent further tests and met with several medical professionals including the surgeon, the nephrologist, a nurse, a psychologist, and a social worker. Later, she met with an infectious disease specialist – the nephrologist wanted that specialist’s input on whether any of Judy’s international travel was of concern.

“The team at Johns Hopkins was fantastic,” Judy said. “Dr. Ottman, my surgeon, was caring, dedicated, humble, gentle and unhurried. Dr. Al Ammary, my nephrologist, was one of the brightest, nicest and most thorough doctors I’ve ever met in my life. The pre-op nurse coordinator, Pam, and the post-op nurse coordinator, Alyssa, were efficient, responsive, knowledgeable and good at communicating.”

From Surgery to Restored Health

On July 26, 2016, Judy and Patricia underwent their life-changing surgeries.

“I was so impressed with the entire team at Johns Hopkins,” said Judy.

Both Judy and Patricia took their time to recover from their operations. Judy recovered for four days in the transplant recovery ward and was then sent home, ready to regain her strength. The first few weeks of at-home recovery consisted of anticipated discomfort and pain, but as time progressed, they both regained their strength.

Throughout the recovery process, Judy had follow-up blood work and labs to assess her kidney function and her overall health. Her post-op nurse coordinator helped her through every step post-surgery.

Eight weeks after the surgery, Judy was able to enjoy everyday activities once more. She was walking her dog, and doing light work-outs. Judy returned to her volunteer work as a bike patroller with the National Park Service at the C&O Canal Historic Park in Montgomery County, Maryland, and with Montgomery Hospice.

It seems like a miracle that they could take something from my body, and I am still okay, and it ended up saving my friend’s life.

Judy Mroczka

On July 26, 2020, the neighbors celebrated their fourth anniversary of the surgery. “The CTC team gave me a fleece jacket that included the words ‘to save one life as if you saved the world,’” said Judy. “I’ll probably never have another chance to save a life, and it was a wonderful thing to be able to do in my lifetime.”

Becoming a Living Kidney Donor

Johns Hopkins specializes in living kidney donations and has pioneered many of the advances in kidney transplant surgery. If you’re healthy, you’re a match for someone who needs the lifesaving gift of a kidney.