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Los Alamos Woman Donates Kidney To Sibling

on September 7, 2017 - 11:15am
Leha Miller of Los Alamos donated one of her kidneys to her half-sister Wednesday morning. Photo by Carol A. Clark/
Los Alamos Daily Post

Leha Miller of Los Alamos donated one of her kidneys to her half-sister Wednesday morning.

Allison Villeneuve received a life-saving kidney from Leha Miller of Los Alamos. Courtesy photo

Allison Villeneuve, 21, lives in Iron River, Mich. She was born with hydronephrosis and her kidneys have been slowly deteriorating since birth. During the past 18 months, she has been undergoing a process of dialysis while sleeping. This allowed her to attend college until recently when that process stopped working. She had to drop out of college to undergo traditional dialysis, which is debilitating and leaves her with just one day a week in which she feels well enough to do much of anything.

“We were at a crossroads because under these circumstances she has no quality of life,” Miller said during an interview last week.

Miller, 28, donated her kidney to someone she really didn’t know. The women share the same father but did not grow up together, she said.

“I first met her when I was 15 and saw her a second time when I was 21. It was during that visit that she told me she needed a kidney. The fourth time in my life I will see her is when I do the transplant,” Miller said. “Because we are siblings I thought we would have a higher chance to be a match but learned that actually has nothing to do with it … it’s the blood type that matters … so I’m glad I passed all the tests.”

Villeneuve was placed on the transplant list two years ago and gave Miller’s name to go through the process to see if she was a match.

“My mom is a heart nurse and thrilled that I am doing this,” Miller said. “I think it kind of worried the staff that I was so calm about it all. But the bottom line is I have two kidneys and I only need one and she has zero … it doesn’t seem fair that I get to live my life and she is living on a machine and can’t even go to college … so why wouldn’t I help her?” Miller said.

Miller, 28, is married and the mother of three. The family moved to Los Alamos nearly two years ago from St. Joseph, Mich., after her husband obtained employment at Los Alamos National Laboratory. She is a staff accountant at Hartway and Breshears CPA

“Lorraine (Hartway) has been so great about this,” Miller said. “Every time I’ve had to leave to get testing done she has been so supportive. All my co-workers have been so supportive as well and I really appreciate them.”

Her family is solidly behind her decision.

“My husband is supportive because he would do the same thing,” she said. “He works at the Laboratory and they have been great in allowing him to alter his hours around the kids schedules while I’m away.

“My children at 13, 10, and 6 and they are excited … they haven’t met Allison yet but they know who she is and they think it’s an amazing thing to be able to save someone’s life … although they are a little nervous that I will be gone so long.”

Wednesday’s laparoscopic surgery took about four hours. They removed Millers kidney and immediately placed it inside her half-sister. The instant doctors removed Miller’s kidney her strength dropped 50 percent, she said, adding that she will only ever get back to 80 percent.

“But that is just fine with me,” she said.

Miller will spend the next two weeks in recovery at her mom’s home in La Porte, Ind. before hopefully being cleared to fly back to Los Alamos.

Villeneuve hopes to return to college in the fall of 2018 to complete her studies at Marian University in Oshkosh, Wisc., to become an x-ray technician.

Miller received a $6,000 travel grant from the National Kidney Foundation to cover costs of hotels, air fare and incidentals. For more information about organ donation, visit