After Stressful Five Year Search, Pasadena Woman Gets Life-Saving Kidney Transplant

Published : Friday, August 11, 2017 | 5:37 AM

Pasadena resident Jenna Franks (left) shown with kidney donor Gary Frey

Pasadena resident Jenna Franks finally received a new kidney after five years of searching for a donor, thanks to a Marine veteran from Tucson, Arizona who donated one of his kidneys through a swap program.

Franks, 31, was diagnosed with a rare urological defect that destroys the kidney when she was a teenager. Her family knew her condition was serious because her maternal grandfather had died at 28 of kidney disease.

Since her senior year of high school, Franks had been undergoing dialysis until she received a transplant when she was 20. After five years, that kidney began failing, too.

Finding a new match became even more difficult since Franks has developed strong antibodies after the first transplant. Besides, it wasn’t easy to find someone with her Type O blood in the Los Angeles area.

That led her family, spearheaded by her mother Karol, to launch an aggressive campaign that included messages written on the family SUV and a strong social media presence.

That was when veteran Gary Frey came along. Saying he was touched by the family’s closeness in the midst of Franks’ condition, Frey entered a kidney swap program where he would give his kidney to someone who could accept it, in exchange for a voucher so Franks could move up the waiting list and get a kidney from another stranger.

Two weeks ago, the family finally found a match, and Franks finally received a compatible kidney last week. On Sunday, she was back home in Pasadena.

Posting on Facebook last Monday, Karol Franks said, “Gary got tested and signed up as her paired donation swap partner. It took 5 years to get a hit as Jenna’s antibodies were 100 percent. Gary waited with her, and finally, on July 18, was able to give his kidney on her behalf. His amazing daughter Rachel was his caregiver. They made this miracle happen!”

Karol tells KTLA all the family’s effort has more than paid off with Jenna’s recovery.

“I’m really pleased, and I just look at her face and the color is better. There’s so much opportunity for her now just to enjoy life, just to be like everyone else,” Karol said.

The family is still continuing a GoFundMe campaign that will go toward Jenna Franks’ recovery, as well as paying Gary Frey back – he covered his own travel expenses and other costs associated with being a donor.

As of Thursday morning, the campaign has raised $16,442 of a $25,000 goal.

To donate to Jenna Frank’s and Gary Frey’s fund, visit or follow the Frank family on Facebook,

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