During a routine wellness visit in 2017, a doctor noticed 5-year-old Marybeth had not grown during the past year. Her doctor recommended seeing an endocrinologist, who then urgently connected her family with pediatric nephrologist Olga Charnaya and a team at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. The Ellicott City, Maryland, family’s lives turned upside down when they received a shocking diagnosis: Marybeth had failing kidneys, already at stage 4. “I was just shocked with disbelief that my little girl’s kidneys were failing,” recalls Marybeth’s mom, Katherine Di Cristofaro. Weeks later, after a kidney biopsy, the family learned Marybeth would need at least one kidney transplant, and possibly multiple throughout her life. She was put on the transplant waiting list, but Charnaya preferred she receive a live kidney — especially if it came from a parent, which would extend the life of the kidney and prevent her from needing another transplant sooner. Marybeth’s father, Brian, was healthy and willing to donate a kidney. “You would do anything to save your child’s life,” Brian says. “Whether it’s jumping in front of a train or donating a kidney.”
The day of the transplant surgery, Katherine watched her husband and daughter be wheeled away for the lifesaving surgery. Four and half hours later, a successful transplant surgery was complete, and eight days later, Marybeth was back home. Now, almost three years later, 10-year-old Marybeth and her father are doing well. Marybeth is tested monthly to ensure her kidney is functioning properly, and she sees Charnaya every few months. “She truly is a living miracle, and the transplant itself is a miracle of an extension of life,” Katherine says.