Monday, April 23 , 2018, 8:56 pm | Fair 54º


Local News

Bank’s Giving Spirit Shines with Kidney Transplant

A chance remark in the lobby of Santa Barbara Bank & Trust leads to a donation between coworkers

[Noozhawk’s note: Debbie Whiteley, Santa Barbara Bank & Trust executive vice president, said Friday that the kidney transplant surgeries went smoothly for both donor Randy Weiss and recipient Katherine Pinedo. According to Weiss, Pinedo’s new kidney is functioning well. Weiss, meanwhile, says he feels like he’s done “a thousand situps,” but he was strong enough to go for a spin down the hall in his wheelchair Friday night and a walk Saturday. He told Noozhawk that while he hadn’t yet seen his surgery partner Saturday morning, the hospital staff was buzzing at how well she was responding. “I made sure she got the extended warranty,” he said.]

This hasn’t been the best of years for Santa Barbara Bank & Trust. Like establishment financial institutions across the nation, it has been under intense pressure as the economy sputters, mired in recession. In March, the bank announced the elimination of 300 jobs.

Through it all, however, Santa Barbara’s namesake and iconic bank has cheerfully gone about its business of serving the community, and its employees have continued to fan out as an army of volunteers. Out of adversity come true acts of compassion and charity. Some have the ability to lift the spirits of an entire company. This one should be an inspiration to us all.

Katherine Pinedo is a senior teller at Santa Barbara Bank & Trust’s downtown branch, 20 E. Carrillo St. The newly married Pinedo is petite, perky and popular among customers and colleagues. But appearances are not always what they seem, and Pinedo has been fighting a long-running battle that has very nearly destroyed her.

At the age of 6, when little girls should be about as carefree as they come, Pinedo was diagnosed with lupus, a chronic, elusive inflammatory disease that attacks the body’s immune system. Zeroing in at random on often healthy organs, the disease established itself in her kidneys, which shut down two years ago. The development forced her into a grueling routine of self-administered, nightly 12-hour dialysis treatments.

For the past 24 months, Pinedo has waited patiently on the national organ donor transplant list, which includes almost 95,000 other people with an average stay of four to seven years.

Pinedo’s wait is over Friday, but the source of her organ donation isn’t from an official list. It’s from a coworker.

For many South Coast residents, Randy Weiss is Santa Barbara Bank & Trust. The handsome, prematurely gray 54-year-old community relations officer is an ubiquitous presence at school functions and nonprofit events all over town. From early morning to late at night, he can be found handing out pens, Frisbees, towels and fist bumps. You could say he’s as local as it gets.

Free “Katherine & Randy” ribbons are available at Santa Barbara Bank & Trust’s main branch, 20 E. Carrillo St.

According to bank executive vice president Debbie Whiteley, the match was made in the bank’s lobby when Weiss breezed through, doling out his trademark greeting, “Hi. How’s it going?” to everyone he saw. For reasons neither can explain, Pinedo replied, “It would only be better if I had a new kidney.” On the spot, Whiteley said, Weiss vowed to donate one of his.

After extensive medical tests determined they were indeed perfect for each other, the date of destiny was scheduled at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. On Thursday, Pinedo and Weiss were resting in nearby surgical suites for an operation that begins early Friday.

Donating a kidney is considered a relatively simple procedure and Weiss should be in and out of the hospital in a day or two, followed by a brief recuperation and with a small scar to show his friends. For the last few months, he’s become something of a fitness fanatic while preparing for Pinedo’s big day.

For Pinedo, however, the two-hour surgery is far more complicated. She’ll be in the hospital for up to two weeks, recuperating at home for up to a month, and facing a mountain of medications intended to help her body accept the new organ. But she’s waited this long and is looking forward to the freedom of a new lease on life with her husband.

“We talk a lot about the unique community we live in and how important it is to give of ourselves to others in need,” said George Leis, the bank’s president and CEO. “We all give generously of our time and our money to the nonprofit organizations that really make a difference in our communities.

“But this gift — by one coworker to another — is truly something very, very exceptional. We are honored to be part of a team that includes people like Randy and Katherine. And we ask our community to join us as we send our encouragement and our prayers to them.”

As a sign of solidarity and support, Santa Barbara Bank & Trust employees will be wearing green organ transplant ribbons through June 19. The free ribbons are available at the Main Branch for customers and others who would like to participate in the tribute.

Click here for more information about becoming a potential organ donor.

Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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