Langhorne, Pa. kidney doctor saves colleague's life with transplant

Beccah Hendrickson Image
Thursday, December 10, 2020
Kidney doctor saves colleague's life with transplant
A Pennsylvania kidney doctor didn't have to look too far when he needed a transplant because his 16-year colleague was the perfect patch.

LANGHORNE, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Like a lot of colleagues, Dr. Chris Frankel and Dr. Greg Zollner have seen each other only through FaceTime in almost a year.

The doctors are kidney specialists who worked together for 16 years, but their connection runs deeper than an office space.

"I feel great today like nothing ever happened, but of course something big happened, he got his life back," said Dr. Frankel, of Nephrology and Hypertension Associates in Langhorne, Pennsylvania.

This year, Dr. Zollner became one of the nearly 100,000 Americans who needed a kidney transplant.

"Chris had always said to me, 'I'll give you a kidney when you need one' and I had never taken him that seriously," said Dr. Zollner, who retired two years ago because of his diagnosis.

"I could not even fathom the ironic disappointment if someone like that, a kidney doctor, would have to go on dialysis," said Dr. Frankel.

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Dr. Zollner found out by accident he had a kidney disease. His office got a new piece of equipment and he decided to try it out on himself. That was the first time his job saved his life.

"As soon as we put the probe down, we saw a cyst on my kidneys," Dr. Zollner said.

He battled the disease for nearly 20 years, but this year it became so dire he needed the transplant.

"To me, that was not acceptable, so I offered him my kidney," said Dr. Frankel, who ended up being a perfect match.

"Stepping up like that was above and beyond, but knowing his character, it doesn't surprise me," said Dr. Zollner.

Six weeks after surgery, Dr. Zollner says he feels like himself again for the first time in years, and Dr. Frankel is back to work.

"How proud I am to have been able to give you a kidney," Dr. Frankel told Dr. Zollner.

"And I cannot express my thanks in words that make any sense," Dr. Zollner responded.

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