A Lifesaving Friendship


A college friendship formed in a freshman speech class turned into an inseparable bond when one girl stepped up in her friend’s time of need.

Kayla McCaffrey and Mayya Andrushchenko met at SDSU during speech class and “just clicked” senior sociology major Kayla said.

The two women have their ups and downs, but love each other like sisters, Mayya said.

Kayla didn’t even know Mayya’s medical history, that she would someday need a new kidney or that she was from the Ukraine and moved to America because of her health until long into their friendship.

One day, Mayya sat down with Kayla and told her about her medical diagnosis – bilateral reflux nephropathy —and Kayla said she joked that if you ever need a kidney, I’ve got two so if you ever need one let me know.

Mayya had to move home after one semester due to her health.

“She called me and told me she was on the waitlist for a kidney donation,” Kayla said. Kayla told her she was going to go get tested and at first, she says, Mayya wouldn’t let her.

Kayla’s grandma, Sandie McCaffrey said she was apprehensive at first, but knew Kayla needed support throughout this process.

Everything was done through the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. A kit was sent to Kayla for blood samples, and when the samples came back a match, Kayla had to go through more testing. The blood type of the two was O positive, and of the six antigens that are important in organ transplants, two were a match. Kayla said her doctors told her that since the two are unrelated, the chances of this happening were about 1 in 200,000.

“I knew right away I was going to do this,” Kayla said. “I had no second thoughts.”

After these things were confirmed, Kayla set up an appointment in late February for doctors to see if she was able to donate. It involved two days of testing from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. “I was poked, prodded and X-rayed – It was really overwhelming,” Kayla said.

“My feelings finding out that Kayla was a match was surreal,” Mayya said.

Sandie said that she talked to her granddaughter about her decision quite a bit, and Kayla was always set in doing this for Mayya and excited about being able to help her friend.

“I never expected for the media to play a role in my life but because of this, I had friends and family get together and show me love and support, and really that’s all that I needed in the end,” Mayya said. “People that I haven’t talked to for years were messaging me and wishing me good luck and donating to my fund was absolutely astronomical … I will forever be grateful to everyone that came out and supported me.”

Originally, the surgery was planned for August, but because of Mayya’s health, was moved up to May 13. 

“I didn’t focus on being sick or getting through surgery. My mind was set on getting done with school since I was taking 21 online credits for my last semester,” Mayya said.

Both women said that what was about to happen didn’t truly hit them until the day of surgery. 

“The surgery didn’t really sink in until both of us were in Rochester laying down next to each other in the preparation room. Her decision of donating changed me inside and out.”

Kayla also said that what was going to happen did not hit her until the day of the surgery.

The two each had their own separate team of eight physicians and surgeons. Kayla said that when she came out of surgery, her first thought was ‘How’s Mayya?’ – Kayla said she wouldn’t tell the doctors her pain level until she found out how her friend was doing. 

“Many tears were shed when we were told that the surgery was a success and that the new kidney began working two minutes after the completion of the surgery,” Sandie said.

During an organ transplant, it can take anywhere from minutes to hours for the organ to begin functioning properly in the body, Kayla said.

“Surgery went extremely well. Recovery was rough at first — but then again, who has an easy time after surgery ?–” Mayya said. “It has been up and down since but overall I feel great.”