Philanthropy in Action

Runner Spotlight

Marathon for Medicine

Why Shannon Runs: 'Giving to NYP provides hope'

Shannon Harrington and her father


With NewYork-Presbyterian's help, Shannon Harrington was able to extend her father's life with a kidney transplant. Now she's running the TCS New York City marathon to help increase access to this important procedure for more patients.

In 2008, my dad, Michael Harrington, became very sick and his kidneys failed. His nephrologist in Philadelphia wasn’t exactly sure why; he was a healthy 46-year-old. 

She recommended that he see a specialist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center. My dad had his first transplant at NYP/Columbia that November. My aunt Maureen (Moe), my dad’s sister, was a match, and for six months after the transplant, my dad was healthy again! Then, he became sick and spent about two months at NYP/Columbia. His platelets were very low, and he had many plasmapheresis treatments; however, nothing was working. 
My dad was diagnosed with aHUS (atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome), a rare blood disorder for which no treatment was available at the time in 2009.

Dr. David Cohen met with him and said there was a trial for a drug that he believed would help him. My dad was one of 17 people in the country to participate in it. 

For three years, my dad traveled to NYP/Columbia to receive the drug Soliris (eculizumab). Eventually, it was approved by the FDA, and he was able to receive it closer to home. He never had another issue with his aHUS. He was doing so well on dialysis that he was able to join the transplant list. 

In 2014, my dad received his second transplant from a deceased donor. For about six years, he was healthier than he’d been in a long time, walking about six miles a day. 

He ended up in the hospital with swine flu and pneumonia in March 2020, and his kidney was showing signs of failing. In June, it was determined that he would need another transplant. I got tested and I was a perfect match!
 

On May 25, 2021, we went into surgery. A little over a year later, my dad was diagnosed with stage 4 skin cancer. He received radiation, chemo, and immunotherapies. He never stopped fighting. Unfortunately, the cancer got the best of him and he passed away exactly 2 years and 2 months after the transplant. I will always be grateful to NYP and Dr. David Cohen for giving me and my family more years with my dad. They saved his life multiple times. 
 

Shannon Harrington and her father in the hospital

Philanthropy is defined as the generosity of giving to help make the lives of others better. By that definition, organ donation is a form of philanthropy: a transplant recipient receives a second chance of life from an organ donor.

Philanthropy also provides hope. There is no feeling worse than the helplessness that you feel watching a loved one battle their terminal illness. In these times of helplessness, NewYork-Presbyterian had always given my family hope. Hope for a healthier future. Hope that a cure comes along. I know that giving to NYP provides hope, cures, and treatments for many patients who may have felt helpless otherwise.

I want to run the marathon in honor of my dad. Since he’s passed, I have found myself walking and running more to clear my mind. I often think of him while running because he was always “getting his steps in.” I know he would be proud of me for running the marathon but more so for giving back to the hospital that gave him so much.

 

Shannon Harrington and her father at a 2008 World Series game


Before I donated my kidney, I would often get asked if I was worried that something would go wrong. I was never worried: I knew that I was in the hands of some of the best doctors in the world. Since I was 12 years old, the doctors and transplant team at NYP always had an answer for all my dad’s health issues. I knew that if something did go wrong, they would have an answer for that too.

The doctors, nurses, and coordinators on the transplant teams at NYP are not only some of the best in the world in their profession but they are also great people. Whenever my dad had a question, Dr. Cohen or someone on his team would always take his call. Two weeks after my dad passed away, Dr. Cohen called my mom to offer his condolences. They truly care about their patients. I know these seem like small things, but it’s not like this everywhere.

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 If you would like to learn more about supporting a marathon runner or other ways to help support NewYork-Presbyterian, contact Donor Engagement at [email protected] or (212) 342-0798.