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Sons give moms kidneys, and everyone celebrates

Anthony Ciambone of Elmont is very close to his mother, Betty, often spending his Sundays at her home. So he didn't think twice about donating his kidney to her last year when he found out she needed one.

"When I see how she was before, how sick she was, and how she is now, it's a good feeling," said Ciambone, 42, a custodian at a school in Elmont.

Friday, Ciambone joined two other men who donated kidneys to their mothers at the North Shore-LIJ Transplant Center in Manhasset to tell their stories and send two messages - that it's healthy and normal to live with one kidney, and that it's OK for a parent to accept a kidney from a child.

"Most parents in general would refuse to accept a kidney from their child," said Ernesto Molmenti, vice chairman of the hospital's surgery department, who performed the surgeries. "But it's all right for a child to give a kidney to their parents. It's a way to demonstrate their love."

Kathleen Geiger, 55, of Northport, said her three sons and husband were all candidates to donate a kidney to her, but her eldest son, Dennis, won out, despite being just two months shy of his wedding.

"The oldest usually wins," said Dennis Geiger, 28, of Manhattan, a research analyst at a hedge fund. "This was a case of me getting my way."

Dominick Dean, 24, of Jamaica, Queens, said his mother was always his source of strength and guidance.

"She has done so much for me," said Dean, who works in automotive parts sales in Valley Stream. "I thought, 'If I can do this for her, of course I'm going to step up.' "

Molmenti said the sons' acts accomplished immeasurable results.

"They provided them with a better survival rate," Molmenti said. "It also provides them with a better quality of life to continue with their normal activities, like traveling."

Molmenti said children are a match for parents 50 percent of the time. An added bonus of intra-family transplants is they are quicker. Molmenti said the wait for a kidney typically is 5 to 7 years in the tri-state area.

For each mother, the transplant deepened the bond with her child.

"Last winter, I couldn't even walk in the snow," said Betty Ciambone, 72, of Elmont, who had her surgery in June. "This last snowstorm, I went out and shoveled three times. I don't know how to thank this sweet boy."

Kathleen Geiger's June transplant was her second. In 1999, her brother donated a kidney after hers failed following complications from childbirth in 1979. That kidney worked until last year, when it became clear she would need another transplant.

"You feel a little selfish taking a kidney from your son," she said. "But he volunteered and never complained once about anything. We always had a very strong bond, and it's even stronger since the surgery."

Nicole Dean, of Jamaica, Queens, a sergeant with the NYPD who returned to work in October after her March surgery, said her son's generosity is simply a blessing.

"He has given me a gift, a quality of life I would not have had if he had not donated his kidney," Dean said.

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