Woman Who Handles Scheduling, Scheduled Herself To Donate Kidney To Co-Worker

By Michelle L. Quinn
Post-Tribune/Chicago Tribune

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Meet the two co-workers who are bonded by a deep, abiding friendship as well as a body part.


Jason Reyes will never forget the last time he ate shrimp, he said.

It was a few weeks ago, following a Dec. 27 kidney transplant, when he ordered some shrimp with cocktail sauce and experienced some significant stomach pain, he said. It was possibly worse pain than the surgery itself, and definitely more depressing, he said.

Doctors warned him he would discover very quickly that his diet was going to change whether he liked it or not. But even if he never gets to eat another morsel of the foods he loves, it’s a trade he’s grateful to make.

Reyes, 35, of Hobart, was given a new lease on life, and from the most unexpected place: Heather Szymaszek, a Chesterton woman who handles scheduling at ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor plant, where they both work.

Reyes’ health had been precarious since he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes 14 years ago, he said.

“I was diagnosed with it when I was 21, and the high blood pressure that comes with it was beating up on my kidneys. I didn’t want to face it, though, and I was in denial for a long time,” Reyes said. “Then eight years ago, things started getting really bad, so I had weight-loss surgery and that slowed (the disease’s progression) for a while.”

The situation turned dire a year ago, however, during a California vacation. He started retaining fluid to the point where he could neither breathe nor walk without incredible difficulty, he said.

The subsequent meeting with his nephrologist upon his return confirmed the worst: Reyes would start dialysis immediately and be put on the donor list for a new kidney. It took all he had to keep it together, he said.

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