2014-01-17 / Front Page

Readers make selection for Great Person of 2013

By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer


JoAnn Lapoint was named Great Person of 2013 for her kidney donation to her friend, David Micca. Residents of Kennebunk, Lapoint and Micca met in the early 1990s when the Lapoints moved into a house down the street from the Miccas. “I always thought of David as a brother, but now I know he is truly the one I never had,” Lapoint said. (Alex Acquisto photo) JoAnn Lapoint was named Great Person of 2013 for her kidney donation to her friend, David Micca. Residents of Kennebunk, Lapoint and Micca met in the early 1990s when the Lapoints moved into a house down the street from the Miccas. “I always thought of David as a brother, but now I know he is truly the one I never had,” Lapoint said. (Alex Acquisto photo) KENNEBUNK — JoAnn Lapoint of Kennebunk was named the 2013 Great Person after she donated one of her kidneys to a friend in need.

In November of 2012, David Micca wrote in his journal: “As far as my health, things keep spiraling down. I have an appointment with my nephrologist on Nov. 30, and we will be talking about the timing for disability.”

Micca was suffering from polycystic kidney disease, a hereditary disorder that causes clusters of noncancerous cysts to form all over the kidneys. The disease would have been fatal were it not for Lapoint, Micca’s friend and neighbor.

Lapoint and her husband, John, met their new neighbors, David and his wife, Beth, when they moved to Kennebunk in 1991. They soon became best friends. “Our kids grew up together,” Lapoint said of her four children, ages 10 to 21, and the Micca’s children, ages 21 to 29.

Despite their many years of close friendship, the dark cloud that was Micca’s disease never really came up in conversation.

“We never put it together. Ten years into our friendship he (Micca) mentioned that he might have to have a kidney transplant,” Lapoint said. “He dealt with it quietly.” Micca confirmed that his laconicism was intentional. “Aside from my wife ... I didn’t share my sickness with anyone. I kept it from a lot of people,” Micca said.

Two years ago, Micca finally told Lapoint and her husband that he would need a donor kidney and that Beth was going to get tested to see if she was a match.

However, testing proved that Beth was not a compatible match.

“I wasn’t panicked, we were just incredibly sad and disappointed,” Micca said after hearing this news. “Throughout our life together, she has sacrificed to make all my dreams happen. She is my heart’s desire. ... She has her convictions and just knows what is right. I never asked her to get tested,” Micca said. “Once she found out she wasn’t a match she asked to be placed on the paired program where she would match with someone else and, in turn, their living donor would donate to me. (She is) always doing for others in a very understated way.”

According to Maine Medical Center, where Micca eventually had kidney replacement surgery, if one does not have a living donor, the chances of receiving a transplant from a waiting list is approximately 50 percent.

Even if Micca did eventually make it to the top of the donor list, the entire process would likely take several years, time he did not have.

That’s when Lapoint and her husband stepped forward.

“My husband and I said we needed to see if we were a match; but, secretly I knew all along that it was going to be me,” Lapoint said. “All that time I thought, you know, I could do that for him.”

Lapoint attributes her intuition to the peculiar number of similarities she shares with Micca. Both were from New York, both were second born in loud Italian families with four siblings of the same sex, but both always wanted a brother/sister. “Yes, we always said that we are more like siblings ... JoAnn has always been like the sister I never had,” Micca said.

Test results proved what Lapoint knew all along – she was a compatible donor. “It was never a big deal to me,” Lapoint said when she formally made her decision to donate one of her kidneys to her friend of more than 20 years.

An excerpt from Micca’s diary on Nov. 21, 2012: “My best friend John went to get tested to donate his kidney to me last month which was so totally unexpected and overwhelming for me. He ended up not being a match, but his wife, also Beth’s best friend, JoAnn, was tested and she was a direct match and wants to donate. I am so humbled. I can’t fathom anyone doing this for me. I really don’t know if I can accept such a gift. How does anyone ever pay that back? I am so incredibly blessed and realize that this is what grace is all about – getting something you don’t deserve.”

A few weeks before the surgery, Lapoint said, the Miccas started to get cold feet. “At one point I said to JoAnn and John that I could not possibly accept such an offer,” Micca said.

Lapoint decidedly told Micca that it wasn’t his decision: “I said, ‘Look, if you don’t allow me to do something that God wants me to do, you know, it’s not really your choice ... you would be taking away what I am supposed to do.’”

Friends asked Lapoint if she was sure it was something she wanted to do. “I told them, ‘You would step forward, too, if someone you loved needed this.’ Most people would ... it’s not extraordinary, and it certainly isn’t a heroic thing. It’s just something that if you have love for someone, would do.”

The surgery took place on Dec. 22, 2012. The surgeon, however, accidentally nicked Lapoint’s spleen while removing the kidney, a mistake that caused Lapoint to bleed out quickly.

Less than 24 hours later, Lapoint went back under the knife to have her spleen removed. Now, a little more than a year later, Lapoint reported her health to be back to normal, and so is Micca’s.

“I always believed that if you can’t find heaven through people, you’ll never find heaven at all,” Micca said. “JoAnn being my donor has just elevated it to another level. Seriously ... it was what I imagine it would be like to look God in the eye. I was going to say it was mind-blowing, but let’s refine that a bit and say it was really transcendental.”

A quote from Booker T. Washington that Lapoint feels typifies her reason for donating her kidney to Micca, reads: “Remember that everyone’s life is measured by the power that that individual has to make the world better – this is all life is.”

Lapoint said her donation is also a lesson to her children. “You can’t tell your kids to give of themselves if you’re not willing to step up to the plate,” she said.

“Service comes in many forms,” Lapoint said. “I was lucky enough to serve in this way. I always thought of David as a brother,” said Lapoint. “But now I know he is truly the one I never had.”

On Dec. 4, 2012, 18 days before the surgery took place, Micca wrote: “I want my donor to know that going forward, whenever I experience anything significant in my life, I will offer up a prayer of thanksgiving for her. I will appreciate every moment of my life because the promise of life that was saved is a promise that I will not waste one moment. I want the donor to know that I am excited to start feeling better, yet, I feel guilty because there are so many others waiting for transplants. I want my donor to know I will treat this organ with respect and will take good care of it. Saying thank you doesn’t seem enough. It isn’t enough.”

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