A friend in need

When he realized Lana Curran was in need of a kidney, JR Smith decided to offer more than just moral support

Danette Dooley danette@nl.rogers.com
Published on March 7, 2011
Lana Curran is shown with her six-month-old nephew, Jackson Price.
Danette Dooley/Special to The Telegram

What started out as a light-hearted comment has turned into a medical journey that will soon see one friend donate a kidney to another.

JR Smith and Lana Curran are from Mount Pearl. Curran still lives there, while Smith lives on the outskirts of Barrie, Ont.

The two, both 31, have been friends since they were teenagers.

When Curran saw Smith’s army identification card during his visit to Newfoundland in 2009, she noticed they both had the same blood type: O positive.

“That’s when I joked with him, saying, ‘I could be coming after you one day for a kidney,’” Curran recalled during a recent interview.

She has been waiting for a kidney transplant for more than two years.

Curran told Smith that her mother (Rosemary Curran) was being tested, that they shared the same blood type and that a match appeared certain.

Smith told Curran that, if things didn’t work out with her mom, he’d give her one of his.

• • •

Curran was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 12.

‘Can’t wait to live like a normal person’

Her condition worsened through the years. She underwent a pancreas transplant at age 26.

A few years after the transplant, she was told her kidneys were failing.

She has been undergoing dialysis three days a week for more than two years.

When she’s not hooked up to a dialysis machine at the Waterford hospital, she’s home recovering from the fatigue that plagues here following the treatments.

By the time she gets her strength back, it’s time to head back to the hospital to cleanse her blood again or to see her team of doctors.

Curran wishes she had more energy to do more things with her six-month-old nephew, Jackson Price.

“I’ll always manage to play with him, but right now, Lori (Curran’s sister) wouldn’t feel safe letting me babysit Jackson. And I don’t blame her. But all that is going to change soon.”

Her smile broadens as she talks about how different her life would be if she could leave dialysis behind.

“At 31 years old, it’s hard not to have a social life. I just can’t wait to live like a normal person,” she says.

• • •

Until 10 months ago, Rosemary Curran was “almost positive” she’d be the one giving her daughter a kidney.

However, after more than a year of testing, the family was told in May that, because of the way Rosemary’s kidneys were attached, one could not be removed safely.

“I couldn’t believe it. It was devastating news,” the mother recalls.

Curran wrote about the news in a Facebook status update.

Smith saw the post.

He called Curran and asked where he could go to be tested as a donor.

He’s been driving to Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital for about six months undergoing various tests, including renal scans, MRIs, CT scans – every positive result inching him nearer to a match.

Curran and Smith will travel to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal on March 16 for a pre-operative consultation. That’s where the transplant will take place, Smith said in a telephone interview.

“They’ve already told me that I’m a match and that everything is good. So, the actual transplant will be done shortly after that,” he said.

Smith has been working out for hours every day to make sure he’s in great shape for the transplant.

He feels like he’s training for a prize fight, he laughs.

But Smith’s fighting days are behind him.

When asked why he’d give a piece of himself to a friend, he turns to his military career.

Smith has served more than 10 years with the First Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment.

He fought in Afghanistan in 2006-07.

“I’ve seen enough evil in this world. More than most people should. So, I want to try to help someone in my own country. And I’m sure Lana will be on her feet soon and living a normal life for the first time in a long time.”

Rosemary Curran’s eyes moisten as she expresses how the family feels about Smith.

“Lana has been so sick and so tired all the time, but soon we are going to get our Lana back. And it’s all because of JR,” she says.