Lisa Brennan said she’s counting down the days to Aug. 20. That’s the day she is scheduled to have one of her kidneys removed and given to her best friend, Kenmore resident Ryan Miller.
“It’s kind of like Christmas,” she said, acknowledging that most people don’t expect her to be quite as enthusiastic as she is about her pending surgery. “I’m giving somebody a really, really cool gift.”
Ryan discovered he was in desperate need of a healthy kidney in December, a scant few months after getting married to his wife, Nicole. He was born with renal tubular acidosis, a medical condition that causes an accumulation of acid because it’s not filtered properly through the kidneys.
The 30-year-old said he has always had scar tissue and about a 30 percent kidney function, but prior to December he never had any major complications.
“Doctors said that one day down the road I might need a kidney transplant but it was never anything I really gave a thought to,” Ryan said.
That was until a couple years ago when doctors diagnosed him with hypertension.
“It’s a vicious cycle where having high blood pressure makes the kidneys work harder,” Ryan said. “They were basically on overdrive.”
In December he learned the high blood pressure had taken its toll, resulting in chronic kidney disease. He would need a new kidney, and fast.
“At that point my kidney function had dropped to about 15 percent,” Ryan said. “I’m actually doing better than the doctors expected. I should be on dialysis right now ... I should be on death’s door.”
Ryan’s doctors told him he wouldn’t last the new year without a kidney transplant, but because he has type O blood — the universal donor, but not receiver — he would probably have to wait seven years on the National Kidney Registry.
We were both absolutely devastated,” Nicole said. “We didn’t know what our future was going to hold.”
“I spent about a week feeling sorry for myself, but then that turned into ‘I need to do something about it,’ ” Ryan explained.
Ryan made up green wristbands with his name and number and posted flyers asking friends, family and strangers to get tested to see if they were a match. He said he never expected to actually find someone to be a living donor, but even one person getting tested was better than nothing.
His parents weren’t good matches, and while his brother proved to be close enough, there was an even better match that came in the form of a surprise.
“I had no idea that Lisa even went and got tested ... she did it unbeknownst to me,” Ryan said.
The two first met in 2002 as students at D’Youville College, where Ryan now works as an academic advisor. The two struck up a quick friendship during Lisa’s freshman orientation — where Ryan served as an orientation assistant as a sophomore — and they’ve been inseparable ever since.
The costs associated with Lisa’s side of the surgery will be covered by Ryan’s insurance, he said, but there will still be out-of-pocket costs for him, which is why a benefit is being held Friday at D’Youville College. Organizers of the event are hoping to raise about $30,000 to help Ryan, Nicole and Lisa through the process that will keep Lisa from her teaching job for a couple weeks and Ryan recovering at home for six to eight weeks.
The event will be held at the D’Youville College Center in Buffalo and will include basket and silent auctions, food, beer, wine and live bands.
Lisa said it’s not possible that the decision to give Ryan one of her kidneys could make them better friends.
“I find it hard to believe that we’d get any closer than we are,” she said. “It’s just a really cool thing that we’ve been able to go through together.”
But Nicole disagrees.
“Lisa is, absolutely from this point on, family,” she said.
A family that is soon to be expanding as Nicole is due to give birth to the couple’s first child in December.
For Ryan to be “able to watch (our) child grow up and being able to have grandchildren is so amazing,” she said.
IF YOU GO
• WHAT: Benefit for Ryan Miller
• WHEN: 5 to 9 p.m. Friday
• WHERE: D’Youville College Center, 320 Porter Ave., Buffalo
• COST: $25 advance, $35 at the door
• MORE INFORMATION: Visit www.ryanfundraiser.org, or call 829-7766