In January of 2009, my husband Matt was referred to a Nephrologist after 30 years of being a Juvenile Diabetic. We believed the appointment would be fairly routine, his endocrinologist had recommended that he become established with a Nephrologist. The appointment was anything but routine, my husband was told he had to be put on the kidney transplant list. The news was devastating, our lives were immediately turned upside. Our son was just turning one year old, and my husband also had two beautiful little girls. The thoughts of how am I going to take care of my family and go to work every day were overwhelming. But ultimately as my husband faces everything he just said let me know what I need to do and let’s get it done.

Matt’s life became a series of doctor’s appointments and tests which were necessary for him to be placed on the Unyts transplant list. Family members, including myself started going through the process of screening to become a live donor. We also joined an organization where kidneys are swapped between donors and those in need if you do not match your loved one.

Matt’s first road block was after two stress tests and an angiogram he was informed that he was in need of open heart surgery, he had four blockages. After searching out the best heart surgeon in Buffalo, Matt had his surgery and in fact had 6 blockages. He recovered very quickly, but was told he had to start getting ready for dialysis, he was almost to that point. We had decided that we were going to do home dialysis so that Matt could continue to work and try to maintain a normal life. Before he could have the procedure to make the fistula for dialysis he became in need of immediate treatment and had his first treatment on a Friday. The positive side was he had all of his surgeries behind him and he was now active on the transplant list! He was also told by ECMC that he was a candidate for a Kidney/Pancreas transplant, he was on both lists and would receive which ever organ came up first.  

It was Sweetest Day 2009, and we decided to go out for dinner. We sat down for dinner and put our cellphones in front of us, we were training ourselves to always be ready for that special call. It is not like it is in 2017 where we know where our cell phones are at all times. We tried to enjoy the evening, knowing that from this point forward Matt would be going to dialysis 3 times a week and carry on his normal routine until we could establish home dialysis. At 1 am, the telephone rang, I jumped up to answer and it was his transplant coordinator. At first it didn’t hit me, we actually talked so frequently it didn’t hit me that it was the middle of the night when I picked up the telephone. It was the most amazing feeling in the world to receive that call and I started screaming for Matt to get up, he was they had a match for him and he would be receiving the Kidney/Pancreas transplant.

The rest is history! We were sitting in the surgical waiting room, waiting for Matt to go into surgery and the dialysis nurse showed up and said, you missed your appointment! It was the longest day and the most amazing day of our lives! By the selfless act of a family, my husband was given the gift of life! After 31 years of being a diabetic. Matt now learned how to live again without having diabetes. My husband respects his gift of life every minute of the day. His doctors say that he sets the bar! He does everything right to preserve and respect his special gift.

But our story doesn’t end there. In February, 4 months after Matt’s transplant I started to feel sick and really tired. I thought with a two year old and everything that had just happened it was all just finally hitting me! Well, much to our surprise after a transplant and both of us being 43 years old, I was pregnant! The transplant doctors were speechless as was everyone else. We were told for all intensive purposes this was not possible. It was, I gave birth to a healthy baby boy, James Whalen Latko, thirteen months after an amazing person saved his father’s life. The doctors said sometimes things happen that there are just no explanation for and this is one, our child is truly a special gift.

Today we continue to spread the word of organ and blood donation. Matt shares his story with everyone, to help them realize how important it is to consider organ donation and what a gift it is.

- Jamie Latko, Matthew Latko's wife