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Northwell Nurse Thanks Her Kidney Donor Friend And Colleague

A longtime Northwell Health nurse who was in desperate need of a new kidney reunited Thursday with the friend and colleague who donated the organ to save her life.

“I was looking for an angel. I needed a special person who would give my  back my life,” said Nicole Salant, NP.

Ms. Salant, of Massapequa, LI, has been a nurse for almost 40 years. Since joining Northwell in 1991, she has become a beloved presence at the various locations she has served. What most people didn’t realize is that she had been battling a devasting disease that could have proven fatal – if not for the intervention of her loving friend, Melissa Moscola, PA.

In 1989, Ms. Salant was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. “My symptoms included pain, weight loss, numbness and general weakness,” said Ms. Salant. “After a doctor’s visit on February 1, I was told to go the emergency room at North Shore University Hospital (NSUH) immediately. I was in kidney failure.”

Her deteriorating condition required home dialysis, which meant 8 ½ hours a day tethered to a machine. “This was no way to live,” said Ms. Salant. “I was not really living a life…I was just existing at that point.”

“We knew that transplant would have to be the next step,” said Nabil Dagher, MD, president of Transplant Services at Northwell.  “However, the fact is that patients waiting for a kidney from a deceased donor are often on the list for six or seven years.”

That’s when Ms. Salant and her family sprang into action by telling their story to local media outlets, as well as publicizing on social media.  She was stunned at the outpouring of support from Northwell colleagues – people volunteering to be tested, calling to get more information, etc. Finally, at the end of March, she was told that a match had been found, but the donor wished to be anonymous.

“I remember the day was April 8th, the day of the eclipse,” said Ms. Salant. “Melissa had texted me and asked me to write back. I told her that a donor had been found, and my surgery would  happen on April 22nd. That’s when Melissa told me that she was also having a surgery on April 22nd. ‘It’s me,’ she said. ‘I’m your donor!’”

The transplant took place on April 22nd. Ms. Moscola, of Melville, returned home on April 24; Ms. Salant was discharged two days later.

When asked why she made the decision to donate, Ms. Moscola said, “At first, I asked my daughters what they thought about my becoming an organ donor. They told me that if I could help someone, I should go for it. And, I’m so glad I did it. I feel great, and I know I helped save a life.”

Ahmed Fahmi, MD, a kidney transplant surgeon at Northwell, served as Ms. Salant’s surgeon. After hearing the two women’s stories, he said, “Being a transplant surgeon and seeing your patient fully recovered and thriving is something that never gets old.”

A special guest speaker on the day was Jamie Mazzei, co-owner of Nubest Salon in Manhasset, who has a special place as Northwell’s first living kidney donor. In 2011, Mr. Mazzei donated a kidney to his father, Michael Mazzei. Both men continue to thrive.

“It’s a great honor to be here today to hear the stories of these two special women,” said Mr. Mazzei. “I hope people will understand how important it is to be a live organ donor. I know that a part of me continues to live inside my father and that I was able to keep him alive. It truly is the gift of life.”

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