A connection made at Tangier Smith Elementary School is changing the lives of many and touching countless others.
When Amy Surrey, a teaching assistant at Tangier Smith Elementary School began spreading the word about the need for a kidney transplant for her husband, Artie Surrey, a volunteer firefighter with the Mastic Beach Fire Department, the community rallied around them and began searching for a donor. Artie suffers from polycystic kidney disease or PKD, which requires him to be on dialysis three times a week for about four hours per day in order to stay alive. He joined the nationwide kidney donor list on November 30, 2017, and Amy, along with Carlo Grover, Chief of the Mastic Beach Fire Department, created a Facebook group, “Community Group for Artie” and kidney testing drives were underway. Many from the community were tested and none were a match in those drives and on the nationwide list.
When Amy’s co-worker, Kristine Gawlowski, a school monitor at Tangier Smith Elementary School, learned that it was Amy’s husband in need of a kidney and since they were both O+ blood type, she felt a strong tug on her heart to be tested. Amy was against Kristine being tested at first knowing all that she had been through in her life – two brain tumors, seven reconstructive surgeries, being on a feeding tube for 11 months, and losing her home in Superstorm Sandy – but Kristine was adamant. She began the process of testing in February 2018, and, lo and behold, about eight months later learned that she is a match for Artie. Her doctors have cleared her for the transplant, which will take place on Tuesday, December 4 at Stony Brook University Hospital.
Artie calls Kristine his hero; Amy says that she has gained a sister. Kristine is upbeat and feels blessed that she is able to help another despite all that she has endured.
To help Kristine with her living expenses while she recovers from the surgery, the Mastic Beach Fire Department is hosting a spaghetti dinner on Sunday, December 2 from 4-8 pm at 265 Neighborhood Road in Mastic Beach. The cost is $15 per person and all proceeds will be given to her. For those who are unable to attend the spaghetti dinner but would still like to donate, donations can be made out to the Mastic Beach Fire Department, PO Box 483, Mastic Beach, NY, 11951. Please write Kristine Gawlowski in the memo and send to the attention of Carlo Grover, Chief, Mastic Beach Fire Department.