Kidney gives Newark woman a second chance at life

By Barry Carter/Star-Ledger
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on December 27, 2013

Seated below a quilt depicting organ donors, Newark resident Gwendolyn Anderson, right, applauds with Jackie Lue-Raia of Mahwah, who's mother Ena Lue died in a car accident on the New Jersey Turnpike in January 2010.


When Ena Lue died after a collision with a tractor trailer on the New Jersey Turnpike three years ago, her family decided to make her a gift to the world.

It started almost immediately with Gwendolyn Anderson, who now carries one of Ena’s kidneys inside her.

The other kidney went to a lady in a Jersey Shore community. And all told, her tissue has benefited 43 people for numerous procedures ranging from post mastectomy reconstruction and cleft palates to hernia repairs, rotator cuffs and bladder slings.

"She’s everywhere,’’ her daughter, Jackie Lue Raia, said.

Ena’s family reasoned it out and acted fast.

Affectionately known as Po-Po, the Chinese word for grandmother, Lue made tapestries for her church and sang in the choir. She volunteered with Meals on Wheels, and family members said she always helped her grandchildren with school activities and helped anybody else in Mahwah, where she lived with Lue Raia.

And there in this charitable life lay the obvious choice, even though Po-Po had never discussed organ donation with her family.

When her children realized she wasn’t going to pull through, they figured donating their mother’s organs and tissue was something she would have wanted.

Gwendolyn Anderson and Lue Raia first met shortly after the kidney transplant and they hit it off right away.

They picked up right where they left off on Dec. 18. There were tears again when they got together for a reunion of sorts at University Hospital in Newark, where Ena Lue passed away at 68.

This time, though, Anderson, now 72, of Newark, got a chance to meet other members of her donor’s family, including a brother, a sister and grandchildren.

"I’m doing fine. The kidney is working properly,’’ said Anderson, who had been on dialysis for six years before receiving the precious gift from a woman she had never met.

The whole group hugged Anderson who, by all accounts, is the right person in more ways than one to get the life saving organ. Like Lue, she loved fishing and was always in motion. She’s part of a senior citizen club that visits its members in hospitals and nursing homes.

"I can’t sit still,’’ Anderson said.

Neither could Lue.

Anderson and Lue’s daughter get together now and then at functions stressing the importance of organ donation.

The two stay in touch, mostly by phone, but there’s a connection between them Anderson noticed for the first time this week.

"It feels like if she’s hurting or she’s joyful, I feel it.’’

And Lue Raia is psyched to see Anderson thriving with her mother’s kidney and moving about. She’s hopeful that 5,000 people in New Jersey on the waiting list for a transplant will be as fortunate as Anderson.

"Just to see them out and healthy and not attached to a dialysis machine is incredible,’’ Lue Raia said. "There are no words to describe that fact.’’

She was left speechless again when she saw how her mother’s image will be displayed on the Donate Life float in the 2014 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif.

The likeness will be among 81 floragraphs of organ donors on the float, fashioned from seeds, flowers and other bits of nature. Her family recently put the final touches on the design that had them in tears when Sharing Network officials showed the oval shaped picture capturing the sparkle in her eye and the smile on her face.

Another daughter, Sandra Lue of Houston, spread some glue over the right eyebrow, then sprinkled a fingerful of coffee beans. She looked down at the picture, blowing a kiss to her mother. Then her brother, Larry, of New York City, sat down and sprinkled coffee beans to complete the left eye brow.

Jackie Lue Raia Sandra Lue will be among five families — three donors and two recipients — from New Jersey in California when the float passes their way at the grandstand on New Year’s Day.

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