Molly Trott holding Daniel George on Pitt volleyball court
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A team effort gets a child a new kidney for Christmas

  • Health and Wellness
  • Our City/Our Campus
  • Athletics

A group of women in Pitt Athletics has taken teamwork to the next level.

Mary Beth George, assistant head strength and conditioning coach for Pitt volleyball, gymnastics and softball, gave birth to a son, Danny, in 2016.

While pregnant, George learned that her son had swollen kidneys due to a buildup of urine, which led to abnormal development of the organ while he was in utero. Just one day after he was born, Danny underwent surgery to remove the posterior urethral valves causing the buildup, but his kidneys were already irrecoverably damaged. 

In the summer of 2020, the Georges discovered that Danny’s kidney function was lessening, and it was time to meet with the kidney transplant staff at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. The Georges consulted with doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, pharmacists and dietitians. But families faced with a chronically ill child need more than medical support; they need a team.

“One thing I’ve learned is how important a support system is,” said George.

Her family lives in Cleveland, Ohio, and her husband’s family is in California, so out of necessity she formed her own Pittsburgh family, including fellow athletics trainer Molly Trott (pictured above with Danny), who works with the men’s and women’s cross country and track and field teams.

“Surrounding yourself with the right people, that is essentially what a team is,” said George. “You have got to find the right team for you.”

In May 2021, with the assistance of the Children's Organ Transplant Association (COTA) and the UPMC Donor Registry, the George family launched a campaign called "Daniel Strong" in hopes of locating a donor and to raise funds to support Daniel’s continued need for care.

Trott, after attending a COTA event and learning more about becoming a live organ donor, decided to register. A few months later, she was selected to undergo extensive medical screening to determine if she was a match for Danny.

In October, when she received the news that she was eligible to donate, she immediately called George and asked, “How would Danny like a new kidney for Christmas?”

Trott’s parents were a little nervous when they first learned their daughter was volunteering to be a live kidney donor. “She’s so young,” they said. Molly’s response?

“Daniel is four years old. If I’m so young and have lived all this life in my 29 years, imagine what he can do with another 20 years.” 

Trott said what motivates her to be an athletic trainer is the same motivation she brings to being a kidney donor. “I come to work and hope to make somebody’s day better in some way,” she said. “With the Georges, I feel that same willingness to help. My donation does not feel like a big to-do on my part, it just feels like something that I should do to help Danny.”

Another crucial team member is Kate McCartney, who is also an athletic trainer and works closely with George supporting the women’s volleyball program. Last spring, she became the Daniel Strong COTA community coordinator.

“I’m helping some of my very best friends,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like work.”

Her role with COTA is to promote live organ donor awareness and to coordinate social media and fundraising efforts. The average lifespan of a kidney transplant from a live donor is 20-24 years, and the money raised through COTA funds ongoing care and future transplants for Daniel.

A happy day

Trott’s and Danny’s surgeries were successfully performed on Dec. 7 at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. This year, the Georges are celebrating both Christmas and Daniel’s birthday, which is on Dec. 26, with only their inner circle, since he’ll still be in recovery. But, by the spring, they hope to have a larger party. There is much to celebrate.

"Daniel's story is just one of thousands that both UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and COTA deal with on a daily basis," George said. "Our doctors, the transplant team and the rest of the staff at Children's Hospital have been more than amazing from my pregnancy, to hour one of Daniel's life, to this day when Daniel received a kidney. They have helped us in every step of our journey, and we are so fortunate to have them in our backyard.”

Learn more about becoming a living organ donor.

— Nichole Faina