This winter, just five months after Nicole Colantonio was diagnosed with stage IV Hodgkin’s lymphoma, her sister Katelyn began to get sick, her ankles swelling so much that her parents brought her to the ER at Children's Hospital.
Katelyn was experiencing acute kidney failure, and must now receive dialysis three times a week for four hours. Her father Jimmy nearly became Katelyn's donor, but last month the family found out that he is not a close enough match, and now the Colantonios are spreading the word about kidney donation in the hopes of finding a suitable donor.
"We understand that this choice requires a lot of thought and consideration," the family writes on their blog. "It is a lot for anyone to give, but it is a gift that will be life changing for Katelyn. You will be saving the life of a daughter, sister, niece, cousin and friend."
There is a lack of general knowledge about kidney donation, Nicole said in a recent interview, especially compared to cancer. "Your health is not compromised in any way," she said.
Nicole, who will be a junior this fall at Stonehill College, underwent months of chemotherapy, surgery and radiation treatments and completed a semester of college at home before entering remission in March. She and her parents have used that experience to help Katelyn through her own ordeal.
“We knew how to handle a bad situation," Nicole said. "I tried to pass on advice to her.”
Despite their age difference – Katelyn is 14 years old and heading into her freshmen year at and Nicole is 19 – the sisters were close growing up. They participated in the same theatre groups and spent quality time together on vacations, Disney World being Katelyn's favorite.
That made it all the more difficult this winter when the family learned about Katelyn's illness. Nicole was at Stonehill and was only getting bits and pieces of information from her parents. She wasn't allowed at the hospital because her own immune system remained weak.
Then after a few days Nicole decided to just show up, donning a mask and gloves to enter the ICU.
“There was nothing really that could keep me away at that point," Nicole said, adding that “It’s a really unique experience that we both have had. It’s brought us closer together.”
For more on Katelyn's story and to learn about kidney donation, visit the family's blog at http://kidneyforkatie.blogspot.com.
Also read more about Nicole's fight against cancer here: .