The picture of the smiling little girl on the flier was more than Laura Bolan could take.
The 8-year-old on the pamphlet needed a kidney transplant, and Bolan knew she could help. She did a quick Web search on the surgery and talked it over with her husband. Then she made a phone call to offer one of her kidneys to Sarah Dickman.
The suburban Atlanta girl was born with the genetic disease juvenile nephronophthisis, which slowly destroys the kidneys. Without treatment, it can kill a child before the age of 15.
Bolan, 34, had never met Sarah when she agreed to donate the organ.
The pair underwent successful surgeries Thursday at hospitals across the street from each other in Atlanta.
Sarah was expected to be in intensive care for at least a day and then spend up to a week at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston. She said she was looking forward to being free from a dialysis machine so she can spend the night at her best friend’s house.
And when doctors remove her catheter, she can take bubble baths again because there will no longer be the risk of infecting the skin around the tube.
Best of all, she can go to Kangaroo Bob’s, a children’s recreation center with inflatable slides, mazes and obstacle courses.
“I’ll get to go there on my birthday because I won’t have this anymore,” she said, pointing to the catheter.
Bolan was expected to return home after a few days at Emory University Hospital. She first saw a flier about Sarah in September at the elementary school where two of her children are students. Sarah attends the same school.
Bolan knew she had the same blood type as the little girl, so she called the number on the flier that evening.
Sarah’s parents, Lori and Joe Dickman, had added Sarah’s name to a national waiting list for transplant recipients after learning that neither parent was a match to donate a kidney. The flier was just a shot in the dark.
The Dickmans received two calls from people interested in donating a kidney. Both were tested, and Bolan was the better match. The Dickmans were relieved because Sarah’s condition was quickly deteriorating.
She was put on dialysis in September, the same month the flier went up. She often left school early because her failing kidneys made her exhausted and irritable.
“We definitely need more people like Laura in the world,” Lori Dickman said.
Joe Dickman wants to add his name to living donor lists so that he can help someone else. It’s the least he can do to repay Bolan for saving his daughter, he said.
“A thank-you doesn’t fit for what she’s doing,” Joe Dickman said of Bolan. “She can call me at four in the morning for a gallon of milk. I don’t care. I’m indebted to her for life.”