Neil Barbot has been a Cytotechnologist at Quest Diagnostics for more than 30 years. In 2019, he learned his 36-year-old son Steven needed an emergency kidney transplant. A renal cell carcinoma condition had severely damaged his kidneys. The Quest community wound up being his last chance at finding a donor to save his son’s life. “We had exhausted our family and friends; no one was a match,” Neil said. “We were out of options, but then I put a post on Quest’s Yammer.”
Once the post had circulated, Allison Pacailler, a Cytotechnologist in Orlando answered. She had previously worked alongside Neil for almost 11 years. Although Allison never met his son, she volunteered to undergo an eight-month process to get tested and was approved to donate one of her kidneys to Steven.
“When Allison came forward and volunteered to donate her kidney it was unbelievable,” said Steven, who is pictured above with Allison. “At that point, we had begun to lose hope. My doctor told me without a transplant I would have at most two years to live because I was not a candidate for dialysis. It was a difficult conversation, but then Allison stepped up to save my life. It was a miracle.”
Many donors are rejected due to weight-related issues such as diabetes or hypertension. Allison, however, had been on a fitness journey for the last five years. With the help of Healthy Quest, Allison was able to lose 150 pounds. With her improved health, she was cleared to donate exactly at the time Steven was in need. Neil described this turn of events as “meant to be.”
For Allison, Steven’s story hit home. “I had an uncle die as a result of waiting too long on the organ transplant list,” Allison explained. “That’s why I made the decision to donate my kidney to Steven if the doctors would allow it.”
As soon as Allison got word she was a match for Steven, she agreed immediately to donate. But then Steven tested positive for COVID-19. Once he recovered, the surgery was delayed further because of the pandemic and the ban on elective surgeries. Finally, on June 29, Steven’s transplant surgery was performed successfully at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, New York, and he is now on the road to recovery.
“I am thankful to Quest for enabling me to transfer from Tampa to Rocky Hill, Connecticut, to be closer to my son through all this, and for offering me the platform to get my message to someone like Allison,” Neil said. “But the true hero here is Allison.” Steven agreed, “Allison is the definition of a hero, and is a lifesaver for not only me but for my whole family. She is someone who puts other people’s lives before hers and was willing to take on a health risk in her life to save mine. She will always be a part of our family now.”
Allison is an active advocate for organ donation. “It’s so easy to check the box on your driver’s license to help someone after you die,” she said, “I’m thrilled that I was given the opportunity to do this now, and that I received great support from Quest in terms of taking time off and testing. Organ donation shows how we are all more the same than we think. I’m a woman of English and Dutch descent, and Steven is Puerto Rican, and yet we were a perfect match. It reminds us we are all more alike than different.”