A piece of Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner now lives in Tom D’Antonio.
It took but a moment for Bonner to decide to donate what turned out to be the third kidney transplant for her childhood friend.
“This wasn’t about me,” Bonner said in an interview. “God gives you two kidneys. Share the spare.”
The transplant almost certainly saved her friend’s life.
D’Antonio, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a child, developed kidney disease in 1988 when he was 29.
His declining health forced him to go on dialysis later that year until his then-girlfriend, whom he later married, tested positive as a kidney match. He then underwent a successful transplant.
Transplants with matching donors do not come easily or quickly. More than 90,000 people nationwide are currently on the kidney transplant waiting list. It can take up to a decade before a successful transplant is performed, according to the Living Kidney Donor Network.
D’Antonio, 57, of Northport, said his diabetes later worsened and began damaging his new kidney. So he said he opted for a rare pancreas transplant procedure at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1999.
That transplant was a success, and life was good for D’Antonio, president of a Manhattan apparel company.
But as the years wore on, his donated kidney began to fail.
This time, his sister, Carla Minervini, 59, who was also a match, came to the rescue, donating a kidney to him in 2002.
“Everything was going along great; I got my life back,” D’Antonio said.
That year, while riding a Long Island Rail Road train near Mineola, D’Antonio suffered a blood clot to his heart, causing him to go into cardiac arrest.
He said he was clinically dead and stopped breathing on his own for 14 minutes as an emergency medical technician performed CPR until first responders arrived and stabilized him.
“People normally have permanent brain damage without oxygen to the brain,” D’Antonio said. “My doctor said I was the luckiest and unluckiest patient he’s had.”
His near-death experience eventually caught up to him.
Over the course of the next 18 months, his donated kidney started to fail because of the lack of oxygen during the cardiac arrest episode, D’Antonio said.
Bonner, 51, who describes D’Antonio as a 40-year-long friend for whom she used to donate blood when they were younger, came to his aid after hearing from him that he was in trouble. She didn’t need more than a few minutes to decide to go through with a transplant.
“I didn’t want to debate it,” Bonner said of donating one of her kidneys. The transplant took place on April 26 at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan.
Bonner recently publicly talked about the transplant after making a full recovery from the surgery. She was able to return to her council obligations in 10 days.
For D’Antonio, gratitude to his donor comes easily.
“It’s heroic at the very least. There was no second thought,” D’Antonio said of Bonner.
More than 90,000 people nationwide are currently on the kidney transplant list. When someone’s kidney fails, that person can opt for a kidney transplant, although the process is long and detailed, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Patients are added to the waiting list and are registered in a national network linking donors and candidates. Patients are ranked on health, urgency status, distance from the organ donor and medical history.