The Northern Westchester Examiner

Cortlandt Family in Need of Two Kidney Donors

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It’s stressful enough for a family to deal with one major medical issue, but to have to face two life changing crises in the same household can be overwhelming to say the least.

That’s the situation the Cancro family of Cortlandt finds itself in as two of its five members are in need of kidney transplants.

“Life is on hold, even planning,” said Lisa Cancro as she discussed the conditions of her husband, James, 52, and oldest son, James Jr., 20. “I know there has to be people out there, something they always wanted to do—make an impact on people’s lives. It’s hard because every day that passes you think…”

Cancro explained there is a genetic kidney disease in the family called focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, commonly known as FSGS. It’s a leading cause of kidney failure in adults. Her father-in-law was diagnosed with FSGS in the early 1980s and had two kidney transplants, receiving one from a daughter, but he died at the age of 52.

James Cancro, a retired Fairview firefighter in the Town of Greenburgh, where he served for more than 26 years, suffered kidney failure about two years ago and had to stop working. He has been on dialysis since, going three days a week for about five hours each session—a routine that saps his energy, but keeps him alive as he awaits a transplant.

“It takes a toll on you. He comes home from it, gets something to eat and sleeps the rest of the day,” Lisa Cancro said. “That’s just one aspect of it. We’re grateful that there’s something to keep him alive, but it’s not what you want out of life. It’s like sitting and waiting.”

The family suffered a rollercoaster of emotions last September when a kidney became available for James and an operation took place at Westchester Medical Center.

“We thought this was the golden ticket. We thought this was it,” said Lisa Cancro, a preschool teacher at Tom Thumb in Mohegan Lake. “We were on such a high when we got the call. This was going to change his life and our lives.”

However, there were complications and an infection developed and the transplanted kidney had to be removed after two days.

“It got to the point where I thought I would lose my husband,” Lisa said. “He healed relatively well. He’s the one going through it physically. I’m going through it emotionally.”

Meanwhile, James Jr., a Walter Panas High School graduate, Eagle Scout and aspiring teacher in his second year at SUNY New Paltz, has 23% kidney function and has declined drastically over the last six to eight months, according to his mother.

Once a person’s kidney function drops to 20%, they become eligible to be placed on the federally-run United Network Organ Sharing (UNOS) program, which has a wait time in New York State for an organ match of five to seven years. There is also a nonprofit group called Renewal, which is dedicated to assisting people suffering from various forms of kidney disease. Renewal helped a Buchanan veteran find a kidney last year.

There are more than 150,000 people in the United States living full and active lives with transplanted kidneys

“He will need dialysis. The ultimate goal is to get a transplant before dialysis,” Lisa Cancro said of her son. “It’s kind of bittersweet. My son could get a transplant quicker than my husband. He feels the world is at his horizon now.”

James Jr. has a common A blood type, while his father has rare O negative blood type. Blood type is only one factor in finding a match. There are several other tests that must be done and criteria that must be met.

Lisa said when her family was tested for the gene that would carry the disease in 2015 she and her other two sons, ages 17 and 12, who are active in local sports leagues, were negative.

Noting she would psychologically be unable to be a donor since “I’m torn between husband and son,” Lisa said the recipient’s insurance usually covers any costs incurred by the donor.

Anyone interested in possibly donating a kidney to the Cancro family can contact the Westchester Medical Transplant Center at (914) 493-1990 for more information.

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