The week around Valentine’s Day means more than romance to Andy and Rita Weber, of Margate.
On Feb. 11, 2003, Rita gave her husband a kidney — and they don’t even have the same blood type.
The couple made medical history with the first completely incompatible kidney transplant, said Andy, 65, who was the county counsel in Gloucester County for more than 20 years. Recently he has been an adviser to Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford.
Andy has polycystic kidney disease, an inheritable condition that results in kidney failure and sometimes stroke. His father died of it at age 42, he said. Andy was 49 when his doctor put him on the transplant list. Six years later he was in end-stage renal failure and still waiting.
“Rita always wanted to donate, but I said, ‘Honey, don’t worry about it. Somehow I’ll get a kidney,’” he said, not realizing he might not survive the wait.
They heard that surgeon Lloyd Ratner, then at Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia, was willing to try an incompatible transplant. Ratner chose the Webers for his first attempt.
The operation, which also removed Andy’s spleen so he can’t make antibodies, was a success. But he is now extra-susceptible to infection and must take precautions, such as wearing a high-tech mask when he flies in a plane’s recycled air.
The Webers volunteer for the Gift of Life program and encourage everyone to sign up as organ donors through their drivers’ licenses. For more information, visit www.donors1.org.
Meanwhile, Rita always gets a great Valentine’s gift: Tiffany & Co. jewelry, shaped like a kidney bean.
Julia Hankerson, owner of Woodbine Wellness Center, didn’t give up when vandals damaged the gazebo she donated to the city in 2006, in memory of her parents Elmer Sr. and Rose Hankerson.
Instead, she repaired it and will rededicate it in a Black History Month prayer service at 1 p.m. Feb. 17 on the bike path across from First Baptist Church of Woodbine SOAR Center. All are invited.
St. Patty’s warmup
Dan Walsh, of Margate, is a financial adviser and lead singer of The Flynns, a local Irish band — with three generations of members all named Tom Flynn.
They’re playing Atlantic City’s Ri Ra Irish Pub in The Quarter at Tropicana 8 p.m. to midnight Feb. 17. The show is dedicated to Walsh’s father-in-law Jack Bradley, of Margate, who died last month.
It’s a warm-up to St. Patrick’s Day March 17, Walsh said. The band calls the gig St. “Practice” Day.