St. Louis friends were a perfect match for organ donation

Carol Patrylo’s son Todd donated his organs after being killed by a drunk driver. Years later, she needed a kidney and her best friend didn’t hesitate

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – If it looks like you’re walking in circles, sometimes a friend can point you in the right direction.

“I think we got in touch straight away,” said Carol Patrylo.

Patrylo said her friend Cindy Mueller saved her life. And she doesn’t exaggerate.

They met while they were both helping out in the Lindbergh School District.

“I found her cute and just loving and she thought I was crazy,” said Patrylo with a laugh. “And I’m crazier than a madman.”

But Patrylo’s world was shattered to pieces when her 19-year-old son Todd was killed by a drunk driver in June 2000. Her only consolation was that Todd was an organ donor and saved other lives.

“Three weeks before his death, he made Christian contacts in an orphanage in Ensenada, Mexico,” said Patrylo. “Cindy was so supportive of me and helped me get through this.”

But nobody really gets through that. The light in her was out.

“I saw how this woman lost her will to live,” said Müller. “There were times when I went to her house and got her dressed and drove to work just so I knew she wouldn’t be in her bed all day.”

Soon her heart wasn’t the only organ that was broken. After years of neglecting herself, Patrylo went into stage 5 kidney failure and her doctor had to give her dialysis.

“The problem with dialysis is dialysis every year. Your risk of death increases,” said Dr. Chintalapati Varma from SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital.

Her best option was a kidney transplant and so her best friend was tested to see if she was a match.

“I didn’t have to think about it,” said Müller. “It was immediately that my best friend needed a kidney.”

Almost miraculously, it was a match, but there was a problem. Müller was overweight and pre-diabetic.

“I said: ‘Well, I’m on a trip and I’m losing weight,” said Müller, remembering the doctors. “So we’ll make it happen.”

With diet and exercise, Müller lost 54 pounds and then her kidney. Last month it was used by doctors at SLU Hospital during a successful transplant in Patrylo.

“It’s extremely rewarding for us, I mean, that’s why we went into this area,” said surgeon Dr. Henry Randall. “That’s all I can say. It’s just a reward.”

Mueller called it a win-win situation.

“By giving her the gift of life, I could also get the gift of a healthy lifestyle,” she said.

Patrylo promises to make the most of her second chance.

One thing seems clear: for the rest of their journey, none of these women will ever go alone.

“I have a lot to live with,” said Patrylo. “And I’m so blessed to have a girlfriend like Cindy.”

Those interested in being a living donor can visit: www.ssmhealth.com/transplant

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