News Article (Tarra Wagner)




Ailing Frankford Woman Still Searching for Kidney



Dec 05, 2012 1:00 AM CST



FRANKFORD — Tarra Wagner, of Frankford, is still waiting for a life-saving kidney donation, despite a series of New Jersey Herald articles four months ago that prompted a handful of Sussex County residents to come forward to donate.

Wagner's family was filled with promise in July when strangers, who matched her O-positive blood type, offered kidneys, but these altruistic donors were soon ruled out due to previous health conditions and other factors.

"We have nobody," her mother, Florence Puccio, said Friday. "We had a couple of people contact us, but they didn't pan out."

Wagner, 33, and her family are continuing to hope that a match will be found, especially since nearly everyone is born with two kidneys but only needs one to function normally. Wagner was diagnosed at 13 with diabetes, a life-long disease that causes high levels of sugar in the blood. This high blood sugar is caused by the pancreas not producing enough of the hormone insulin.

After being diagnosed, Wagner progressed, like most diabetics, from watching her diet to taking medications to giving herself insulin shots to control the disease. But, nearly 20 years after her diagnosis, Wagner's kidneys failed. Since March 2011, she has been on peritoneal dialysis, which uses the lining of the abdomen to filter the blood in order to remove waste and toxins that her kidneys cannot.

"Dialysis — thank God for dialysis — but it takes a toll on the body," Puccio said.

Every four to six hours, Wagner hooks herself up to an IV pole to receive dialysis treatment. This has made it impossible for Wagner to get a job, go to school and even leave home for extended periods of time.

"I have to schedule and know what my whole day will be so I can plan around dialysis," Wagner said.

Wagner's health is constantly going up and down. Most recently, she was hospitalized due to complications in August and had to miss a benefit concert on her behalf.

"It's a day-to-day thing," Wagner said. "Some days are worse than others."

Wagner has looked to her family and friends for a kidney donation so she can finally live a healthy, normal life, but her efforts have been unsuccessful. Her family members are either disqualified for health reasons or have the wrong blood type. She also is on a waiting list for a deceased person's kidney, but the list is long and is not as good an option as a living donor. So Wagner continues to network on Facebook and spread the word in her community.

Potential donors must be older than 18 and in good health. They undergo a series of blood work, urine testing, chest X-rays, renal angiograms, compatibility testing, EKG, and a history/physical to make sure the potential donor is a healthy match.

Donors then undergo a minimally invasive laparoscopic procedure that takes about two hours and usually involves a two-day stay in the hospital. The donor will likely be back to normal in two to four weeks.

Willing donors who are not the right blood type can participate in a swap program, where, for example, an individual who wants to donate to Wagner but is incompatible by blood type or cross matching can be matched and exchange with another donor/recipient pair with which they are compatible.
Despite misconceptions, donors can still go on to receive health and life insurance, and will not have problems with conception or pregnancy issues related to the donation. The costs associated with being a living donor also are covered by the recipient's insurance.

"A lot of people don't think that you can do the things you did before, but that's not true," Puccio said. "Your life doesn't change except that you have saved somebody."

Those wishing to donate to Wagner, can contact Donna Walton, a living donor transplant coordinator for Saint Barnabas Medical Center, at or 973-322-5047.


"Somewhere out there is a donor, and we need to find them," Puccio said.