Kidney Transplant Donor, Recipient To Meet Saturday
LAKEWOOD — Anxious, excited and nervous is how Tiffany Galley described what it will be like to meet Darlene Morganti face-to-face for the first time.
Galley, a resident of Westmoreland City, Pa., a community located southeast of Pittsburgh, will be traveling to Erie, Pa., to meet Morganti, a Lakewood resident, at Perry Square Saturday afternoon.
Galley is emotional about the meeting because she is the reason why Morganti is still alive. In October 2020, Galley donated her kidney to Morganti.
“I don’t know why I’m nervous,” Galley said about meeting Morganti. “I’m excited to give her a really big hug. Knowing she is doing well makes me so happy. To meet her and to meet her family, it’s going to be a great experience. It’s going to be crazy. We’ve talked on the phone and Facetimed, but I know it’s going to be different face-to-face. It’s going to be an exciting experience.”
Galley isn’t the only one excited about the meeting. Morganti said she cannot put it into words what it will mean to meet Galley.
“(Galley) is an awesome person,” Morganti said. “We just talked (Wednesday) morning a little bit. We’re both anxious. I said, ‘Tiffany, I feel the same way. I can’t imagine hugging you. I owe you everything.’ It’s a phenomenal feeling. She has given me so much.”
Galley said she is going to bring her husband, Randy, and their two boys, Rayden who is 12 and Greyson who is 7. She said they will get some lunch and explore Erie by going to the children’s museum and art museum.
“I want to get to know her,” Galley said. “I just want to spend the day getting to know a little bit more about her.”
Galley said she was inspired to be a kidney donor following the unexpected death of her mother, Karen, six years ago.
“It hit me very hard. She was only 56. She didn’t have any kidney issues,” Galley said about her mother, who died of pneumonia. “She is the reason I signed up. If I could save someone’s mom, daughter, husband, and I’m healthy and I knew I could do it, so why not.”
Galley said she signed up to donate her kidney in 2018 after reading a friend’s Facebook post about their mother in need of a kidney. Galley was tested, but even though they were the same blood type, it still wasn’t a match.
“I didn’t know her. She was a friend of a friend. But I wasn’t a match, so I just stayed on the list,” she said.
More than two years past before Galley received a phone call asking if she would still be interested in donating a kidney.
“I didn’t know who I was donating to and that’s fine. I’m saving a life. I just wanted to do something good,” she said. “If I could have saved my mom, I would have. My inspiration was my mom.”
Galley said after the surgery to remove her kidney, the first thing she did was ask if the recipient was fine.
“I didn’t get her name until six to seven weeks after,” she said. “I called (Morganti) and surprised her, and she cried a lot. She didn’t know what to say. I didn’t either except to say ‘Hi.’ Her family has been real supportive, reaching out to me. They were asking me how I was doing when I was thinking how is (Morganti) doing. She was the one who needed a kidney.”
Galley said another reason she went through with the donation was because of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
“I wanted something positive to come out of 2020. I’m kind of glad this happened during the pandemic,” she said. “There is something in our blood that is rare, which is why we were a match. If she wouldn’t have found a match within a year, she wouldn’t be here. I’m glad our paths crossed.”
The meeting Saturday hopefully won’t be the last. Morganti said the two have already discussed their families getting together at Waldameer Park & Water World in Erie this summer.
“We’re going to have a little picnic,” Morganti said.
UPMC LIVING-DONOR KIDNEY EXCHANGE
Galley isn’t the only hero in this story. Morganti’s son, Michael, also played a large role in the kidney donation. Michael, a Jamestown Police Department detective, was tested to see if he was a match for his mother. Unfortunately, he was not. However, because of UPMC’s living-donor kidney exchange program, Michael Morganti signed up to donate his kidney to a potential match if the program could find a match for Darlene Morganti.
“My son is also the reason this all happened. We are in the paired exchange program through (UPMC) Hamot. He is giving a kidney to a complete stranger and I got mine from a complete stranger.,” she said. “Every time I see my son I just want to cry. He’s like, ‘You have to stop talking about it all the time.’ I have two heroes in my life — my son and Tiffany.”
Darlene Morganti said her husband, Rick, was not a match and her two daughters couldn’t be donors because of health issues.
“I know my daughters would have done the same if they could have. Family is everything, I can tell you that,” she said. “At Thanksgiving I always make my speech, and my kids wait for it, and I just said look around this room … these are the people who are going to be there for you.”