MORGAN HOOVER, NEWS-PRESS CORRESPONDENT
June 24, 2009 7:49 AM
Some people who ask, "How's your day?" really mean it.
Randy Weiss, a community relations guru for Santa Barbara Bank & Trust, is one of those people.
While routinely visiting the bank's main branch at 20 E. Carrillo St. nearly a year ago, Mr. Weiss, 54, said to senior teller Katherine Pinedo, "Pinedo, great day, huh?"
Mrs. Pinedo, 25, replied, "It would only be better if I had a kidney."
When Mr. Weiss asked for further details, he discovered that she had lupus, which resulted in nightly rounds of dialysis for two years.
"Well," he said, "I've got two kidneys. Why not one of mine?"
Mrs. Pinedo was skeptical.
"I didn't think anything was gonna happen," she said, "because I'm not the type of person to bug someone or push them to do anything."
But Mr. Weiss did undergo testing and discovered he was a match to Mrs. Pinedo.
His blood pressure and cholesterol levels were too high to perform the surgery immediately, however, and in October, he moved his office to Goleta, which put him near a gym in which he began to exercise regularly.
He lost 25 pounds by January and his levels were low enough for him to proceed with the donation.
"I believe Kat saved my life," he said. "I weigh 40 pounds less than when we started, I practice healthy eating habits every day and feel absolutely great."
The procedure was performed June 12 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, and both Mr. Weiss and Mrs. Pinedo are recovering well.
"I'm a little sore," said Mr. Weiss, "but I've been able to work half days, and it's been shown that people live longer with one kidney anyway."
Mr. Weiss was released on June 14 and Mrs. Pinedo was released on June 17.
The first 30 days after the procedure will be restrictive for Mrs. Pinedo.
"It's harder than I thought it would be," she said. "I'm confined to home, if I go to the store or anywhere I have to wear a mask and I can't be around my pets."
She knows, however, that the difficulty is only temporary.
"I know the recovery is hard," she said, "but it's going to be worth it."
According to Mr. Weiss, the two were not close before the procedure.
"It wasn't like we were great buddies or anything," he said. "We became a family over the last two months."
"I call her 'sis' and tell her I love her, and she calls me 'bro.'''
"We are family," agreed Mrs. Pinedo, "and we talk every day to keep each other updated."
Mr. Weiss also said he is happy that Mrs. Pinedo and her husband can now look toward the future and a possible family.
"They're newlyweds, and it's hard to think of having a family when one of the partners is basically in prison," he said, referring to her dialysis treatments.
"I'm very excited for that," said Mrs. Pinedo, although she and her husband of three years have to wait at least a year before having children.
Mr. Weiss wants the story of his donation helps save others.
"We hope that it might encourage other people to donate their organs," he said. "I'm jazzed to make the difference of a life time."
In celebration of the employee-to-employee donation, all Santa Barbara Bank & Trust employees wore personalized green transplant ribbons from June 12, the day of the surgery, to June 19 and gave them out at the bank's main branch.
While Katherine Pinedo is recovering, others are not so fortunate.
Lea Williams was diagnosed with microscopic polyangiitis, a rare auto-immune disorder that attacks the kidneys and the lungs, in summer 2000.
In October 2007, her kidneys gave out and she began regular dialysis treatments.
Though she has been on a list to receive a kidney for the past nine and one half months, there are no guarantees in how quickly she will move up that list.
Mrs. Pinedo was on a list for two years and was told that it could take seven for her to receive a kidney.
Two friends have expressed interest in donating a kidney to Ms. Williams, but one changed her mind and another discovered he had arthritis and therefore could not donate.
Through all of her bad luck, Ms. Williams is glad that Medicare covers her dialysis expenses.
"It's a fortune!" she said. "I figured out that it's like $150,000 a year for me to be on dialysis."
She hopes that by making her story public, people will become more open to donating.
"If more people knew what the plight is and that they are the solution," she said, "they would be more enthusiastic" about donating.
Katherine Pinedo also hopes to inspire this message.
"There are so many more people that need kidneys and other organs," she said. "It's great for both people. Randy's living a healthier life, and I can start my life over again. It's one of the most selfless acts someone can do."