ROCHESTER (WCCO) — A Rochester woman who saved a life by donating her kidney is also getting a second chance at life.

At the beginning of 2011, Mary Fredericksen received some bad news, a diagnosis of Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). Her only chance of still being alive for more than a few years seemed to be a bone marrow transplant.

Her friend and co-worker at Mayo Clinic, Vicki Bryhn took the news particularly hard.

“Not Mary, it can’t be Mary,” said Bryhn. “She’s just too good to everybody.”

Five years ago, in 2006, Fredericksen gave Bryhn a new life by giving her one of her kidneys.

Frederickson has worked at Mayo Clinic for 25 years and Bryhn for more than 30 years. Although they work in different departments and see each other just once or twice a month, they still formed a bond. That bond has grown much closer since the kidney transplant.

“(She) was kind of my last resort. I was ready to give up. It was too hard,” Bryhn said of her long fight with Polycystic Kidney Disease.

Fredericksen’s donor kidney was such a good match, Bryhn has had no complications, returning to see her doctor only for routine checkups.

Now it was Frederickson who needed a matching donor with life-saving bone marrow.

“I have six sisters. Not one of them was a match,” she said.

Her doctors turned to The National Marrow Donor Program, based in Minneapolis, where they found a nearly perfect match.

Still, Dr. Mrinal Patnik, a Mayo Clinic hematologist and transplant expert, knew Fredericksen may have challenges recovering with just one kidney.

“We were nervous about it,” said Patnik. “A lot of the chemotherapy and drugs we use for leukemia and transplant all get cleared through the kidney.”

Despite some close calls, Frederickson is doing well now.

Again, the kindness of strangers made the difference. Three anonymous donors in the Rochester area have kept her going by donating essential blood platelets every eight days as her own blood supply took time to rebuild itself.

Ironically, even after her selfless gift of a kidney to a co-worker, Fredericksen is in awe of all the generosity she has received.

“There have been so many blessings,” she said. “I’m just amazed that someone would do that for someone (they) don’t even know.”

According to Patnik, for the vast majority of marrow donors these days, the process does not involve tapping into the bone at all. It is a matter of filtering stem cells from the blood stream. For more information about how to become a marrow donor, click here.


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