"They obviously had lost someone unique and irreplaceable in their lives, someone who meant a great deal to them because she
was so genuine," Alan L. Komm
husband of 36 years, said yesterday."She
had basically no pretense and consequently related to each person in a unique way."He
wife's appreciation for life to her
suffering with grace through more than half a century of kidney problems brought about by birth defects.She turned that struggle inside out in 1977 when she co-founded the National Kidney Foundation of Western Pennsylvania.
learned not to have pretenses because life was so precious to her
whole life living on the edge of death," her
In the end, it wasn't a kidney problem but a four-year battle with colon cancer that ended her
life at age 58.
As co-founder of the kidney foundation, Mrs. Komm
leaves a legacy as an impassioned force for kidney research, patient services and public awareness.
From age 5, Mrs. Komm
suffered from kidney problems.She
was one of the first patients to receive a kidney transplant at Presbyterian University Hospital
in 1983 after surgeon Dr. Thomas Starzl pioneered use of the new immunosuppression drug cyclosporine.She
received a second transplant in 1998.
After a childhood that included many hospital stays, Mrs. Komm
entered adulthood with strong determination.In her
early 30s, one kidney infection too many resulted in dialysis at West Penn Hospital's
experimental unit for the next seven years.
During that time, her
husband recounted, she
took charge of her
care, putting in her
own blood access needles, reviewing her
charts and making such on-point suggestions that doctors asked if she
was a nurse, nurses asked if she
was a doctor and one doctor wondered if she
was a lawyer.
During this period, she
co-founded the foundation and made presentations to charitable foundations, corporations and individuals that resulted in $300,000 in startup funding.This year, the foundation will give more than $1 million to projects to promote kidney health in Western Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia.After her first transplant, Mrs. Komm earned a degree in psychology and management at Chatham College, competed in swimming at the International Transplant Games and became a manager of fund development at Allegheny General Hospital.She directed a yearly series of United Way campaigns that always exceeded their goals.She
also hosted one of her
church's weekly home groups for 22 years.Mrs. Komm
loved hosting dinner parties and inevitably, wherever the gathering, had an instinct to be the life of the party, her
was extremely determined, optimistic and could always, always rise to an occasion no matter how she
was feeling," he