Marymount connection leads to kidney donation for young father

When Fatima Estorninos needs help, the 2011 Marymount University graduate doesn’t hesitate to turn to her alma mater, which is what she did as director of youth ministry at St. Agnes Catholic Church. She never dreamed that request would lead to a potentially life-saving kidney donation for her brother. But that’s what happened after she became friends with Theresa Dalmut.

Not only did the 23-year-old Dalmut donate an organ to a man she hadn’t previously known, she is running a half-marathon this weekend – 12 weeks after the operation – to raise money for the recipient’s family.

“She’s a true model of Christ’s love and service to others,” Estorninos said. “If I hadn’t gone to Marymount, I may never have met her.”

Their connection began when Estorninos called Dalmut’s sister Meg, Marymount’s associate director of community engagement, for help with the youth ministry.

“I sent her my sister as a volunteer because my sister is the best volunteer,” Meg Dalmut said. “Well, I never knew the extent of her love until this.”

Estorninos and Theresa Dalmut became friends. In addition to their work at St. Agnes, they went on Marymount-sponsored pilgrimages to Spain and Poland. When Dalmut heard Estorninos’ brother desperately needed a kidney, she immediately got tested to determine if she would be a potential donor.

“Part of it is that we lost our father almost four years ago,” Dalmut said. “I knew that Fatima’s brother had two very young children, and I couldn’t stand the thought that they, too, would lose their father at such a young age. Nobody should have to go through that.”

On June 12 – 10 days after agreeing to donate a kidney – she and Ryan Estorninos went into surgery at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.

“She’s a great young lady,” said Ryan Estorninos, 30. “You don’t expect that kindness from someone who is literally a stranger. It’s very selfless and kind to offer something like that. Who knows what my life would have been like if I had to go on dialysis.”

Estorninos and his wife Agnes have two children, 4-year-old Joey and 1-year-old Maggie. He was prepared to wait for as long as 10 or 15 years for a transplant.

Because Ryan Estorninos’ work in digital media is now limited to freelancing, Dalmut is
raising money for the family during Sunday’s Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon from Mount Vernon to National Harbor, Md.

It’s her second attempt at the distance. A few years ago she hurt her back during training and had to postpone her goal. She’s determined to finish.

“I’m doing great,” said Dalmut. “There’s really not much difference in my activities since
the surgery, other than I get dehydrated a little easier now.” She was off work for two weeks from her job as a paralegal in Fairfax, then worked part-time for a week before going back full-time.

Estorninos said he can’t begin to express his gratitude.

“I had been complaining about my health for several months and then out of nowhere comes this wonderful, amazing person giving me a piece of her life,” he said. “It was very emotional for me and my wife.”

He’s had setbacks.

“At one point my doctors were worried my body might reject the kidney,” he said. “But I’m leaps and bounds ahead of where I was a month ago. I know my health will never be perfect again, but I’ve already crossed the biggest hurdle.”

Meg Dalmut said the connection between Marymount and its alumni is incredible.

“There is no act as selfless as the one my sister has embarked upon,” Dalmut said. “She literally gave a part of herself so that another might live. I can only hope and pray that one day I am as selfless and generous as my baby sister is. The Marymount family is truly filled with saints!”

To support Theresa Dalmut’s fundraising run, go to