CRESTVIEW — First United Methodist Church’s youth pastor, Mike Milani, is taking some time off this summer for a special reason.
On June 29, Milani will travel to New York, where he will undergo surgery to give his 14-year-old niece, Kenzie, one of his kidneys.
Kenzie lives in North Carolina with her mother, Lindsey, who is Milani’s sister. She has been through several surgeries since birth and is currently in renal failure.
“It’s been such a long time coming,” Milani said. They kept changing the dates, and then my niece, bless her heart, being that she is in end-stage kidney failure now, any infection is a hospitalization… so this should have been done on May 30.”
Kenzie was born with an extremely small bladder, according to Milani. Three teams of surgeons from North Carolina and New York will do perform surgery at Columbia University Medical Center in New York. One of the surgery teams created a larger bladder for Kenzie and will place it during the kidney transplant. The other team includes the surgeon who invented laparoscopic kidney removal, Lloyd Ratner, who will remove Milani’s kidney and place it in Kenzie.
Lindsey was originally supposed to be the organ donor.
“That felt really wrong to me,” Milani said. “So I said, ‘Let me finish getting tested.’”
As it turned out, Milani was also a perfect match for a transplant.
“Lindsey has always been right there at (Kenzie's) side the whole time,” Milani said. “I said to her, ‘I can’t imagine you sitting in a hospital room recovering from your surgery, and you can’t get up and go see your baby girl.’
“She was being tough, I could tell, so I said, 'Let me do it.'”
The recovery period for Milani will include a two-day stay in the hospital, followed by a follow-up appointment after a week; he will not be able to lift anything for about six weeks but should be mostly back to normal.
Kenzie’s recovery period will be much longer – a six-week stay in the hospital, followed by 12 more weeks staying in New York for twice a week follow-up appointments with the doctors.
“This is the new frustration for her; she’s fixing to start high school,” Milani said. “She’s had physical limitations her whole life… and it finally got to where most of that was gone. Now that’s going to be off the table for a little while.
“She’s really kind of down about it.”
The family has a GoFundMe page set up with more than $20,000 raised and a $50,000 goal.
According to Milani, $20,000 is just the tip of the iceberg in this situation. With the travel expenses, Lindsey has already spent more than $12,000. Their stay alone in New York will be more than $10,000.
"... I consider it as a blessing that I can do this for [her]," Milani said.
“She’ll get a regular kidney and feel like a normal kid again.”