Tony Sacco and family

Tony Sacco received a diagnosis of kidney disease with deteriorating kidney function in the early 1990s.

With the help of his nephrologist, Tony managed the disease for many years.

However, after over 20 years of management, the conversation changed: Tony needed to begin dialysis or find a new kidney.

A family member of Tony’s began the process of becoming an organ donor but did not qualify. It was after finding out that his family member could not donate their kidney that Tony and his wife attended the University of Maryland Medical Center’s Big Ask, Big Give seminar, given in partnership with The National Kidney Foundation serving Maryland and Delaware.

“The workshop really inspired me. It gave me hope that there was another way,” Tony said.

The Big Ask, Big Give Workshops are designed for patients in need of a living kidney donor. These free workshops offer proven strategies to increase comfort in approaching others about donation.

With newfound knowledge and hope from the workshop, Tony drafted a letter publically asking for a kidney donor. Modeled off others he saw at the Big Ask, Big Give, Tony shared the letter on his Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. Two months later, on the very same day, Tony received two different emails offering to begin the process of kidney donation.

Both potential donors began the process of qualifying for organ donation. With one progressing faster than the other, Tony was excited to learn they had matching blood types and could offer him a kidney through the paired kidney exchange. Both Tony and his donor lived in the greater Washington DC area but returned to the University of Maryland Medical Center after his donor learned the University of Maryland's Transplant Center is one of only a few transplant centers in the country with the surgical expertise to remove a donor’s kidney through a small cut in the belly button. The innovative approach offers a quick recovery and minimal scarring.

In June of 2019, Tony and his donor both returned to University of Maryland Medical Center to perform the kidney extraction and transplant. Tony received the kidney transplant on a Friday and returned home the following Tuesday. His donor was hospitalized for only two days.

Today, Tony’s doctors are pleased with his recovery. Tony follows a kidney-friendly diet and is looking forward to celebrating the anniversary of his kidney transplant this summer.

“I feel free and as if I have a new life,” Tony said about his improved quality of life.

He credits the Big Ask, Big Give for helping make the transplant possible.

“The workshop inspired me to take a look at all my outreach resources. I encourage everyone to attend,” Tony said.