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Binding Love: Man Donates Kidney to Fiancée

Image: Erick Ramunni and Stephanie Phillips (sitting, holding hands) surrounded by the Temple Abdominal Transplant Care Team, including Chief of Abdominal Transplant Dr. Antonio Di Carlo (center).

Twenty-eight-year-old Stephanie Phillips was suffering from stage-four kidney disease late last year and faced with dialysis treatments for the rest of her life when new hope for a vibrant future came from an unexpected source.

"I have no siblings and no one else in my family was a match for the possibility of donating a kidney. One day, my fiancé walked in and told me that he had been secretly tested to see if his kidney was compatible," she said. "He turned out to be a perfect match. I think I cried from the shock!"

Stephanie, a native of Kingston, PA – about an hour north of Allentown – had been acquainted with Temple University Hospital following a prior visit to the Temple Limb Salvage Center for complications from juvenile diabetes. For the past 15 years, Stephanie has battled diabetes – which ultimately led to her recent kidney failure.

When it came time to prepare for her transplant surgery, she, along with her fiancé, 31-year-old Erick Ramunni of Wilkes-Barre, PA, looked no further than the expertise of Temple's abdominal transplant team.

About three months after finding out that Erick was a perfect donor match, the couple underwent successful surgeries on February 4. Antonio Di Carlo, MD, Chief of Abdominal Organ Transplant Surgery, first removed Erick's kidney in a minimally invasive nephrectomy procedure. Then, transplant surgeon Andreas Karachristos, MD, PhD, carefully implanted the healthy kidney in Stephanie during an eight-hour procedure with the assistance of Dr. Di Carlo and other members of the abdominal transplant team.

"This is most certainly not something you see every day as a transplant surgeon," Dr. Di Carlo said. "Giving your kidney to your significant other takes a couple's dedication and love for one another onto a whole different plane!"

Stephanie and Erick were discharged from Temple in time for Valentine's Day. Once fully recovered from their respective surgeries, the duo plans to go on a vacation to celebrate the end of Stephanie's months-long health challenges. The couple won't be strangers to Temple, as Stephanie has chosen Temple endocrinologist Ajaykumar Rao, MD, for her ongoing diabetes care needs.

"I am so thankful to my fiancé and the skilled surgeons at Temple for giving me a renewed chance to enjoy life," she said.

"I love her and want her to live a long, full and happy life," Erick added.

Date Published: Tuesday, March 4, 2014