Court administrator donates kidney to Ferndale judge she's worked with for 13 years

Doctors say tissue samples were near-perfect match

FERNDALE, Mich. – Three years ago, 43rd District Court Judge Joseph Longo came down with MRSA, and complications led to kidney disease. Earlier this year, he was facing a difficult life choice: give up the job he loved, or keep going to work while enduring painful kidney dialysis treatments.

Longo's odds of landing a kidney weren't good, but the answer to his prayers was working just 20 feet away.

Longo has been on the bench for 19 years in Ferndale District Court, but the last three years have been rough because of the dialysis. His staff, including the court administrator, Linda Carroll, started to notice.

"There were days Marie and Linda would have to close the doors and I had to crawl in," Longo said. "That's kind of an exaggeration, but I would struggle to get up on the bench, and then they'd open the doors for people to come in. I just didn't want people to know what was going on."

Longo needed a transplant. Normally, the wait for a kidney is four to seven years, but because he needed someone with blood type O, doctors said it would be more like seven to 10 years.

"You really can't go to somebody and say, 'Hey, I really need a transplant. Would you be willing to go and get tested?'" Longo said.

His brothers volunteered immediately, but were ruled out.

"I was down, and I'm usually an optimistic person," Longo said.

But Longo didn't know that Carroll, who is blood type O, had decided to make a life-saving offer.

"Just to come out and say, 'I want to be tested,' it threw me for a loop," Longo said.

Carroll, who likes to let the judge tell the story, said their tissue samples were such a perfect match that doctors were surprised they weren't related. After tests were completed in May, the transplant was performed July 27.

"Right now, I feel great," Longo said. "Best in three years. No pain."

Carroll is also feeling 100 percent, and is quietly proud of the bond they share.

"It's very strange to be in a position to receive something so big that, no matter what, you did could never thank thank person enough," Longo said. "Every day, I look at her and think, 'That's the lady who saved my life.'"

Carroll doesn't want any praise or fanfare, but she does want people to know what donating can do.

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