Living Donation a Chain of Love

I have had the pleasure of working with Donate Life NC since 2014, and I can say that this is one career decision that truly changed my life. While I have been a registered organ donor since receiving my first driver’s license, I wasn't knowlegeable of living donation until I started meeting living donors through Donate Life NC. Indeed, I had some of the same misconceptions about living donation that many Americans have—that recovery would be difficult, that the death rate for living donors was high and that my life after surgery would be limited. Nothing could be further from the truth. I was inspired by the many men and women I met over the years whose living kidney donations saved the lives of friends, relatives and total strangers. These inspirational people prepared me for one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

In 2015, I met a good friend for lunch, and she mentioned that her husband James had Polycystic Kidney Disease and would someday need a transplant. He was still very healthy at the time and I didn’t think much more of it for a while. In 2017, however, I saw a Facebook post that her husband (a pilot) had been removed from duty and put on the transplant waiting list. The wait for a kidney transplant can be up to 7 years in North Carolina. Something in me knew that this was my time to serve. Have you ever had an experience that you KNEW was right for you? I can’t explain it except to say that I knew God had teed this one up for me.

After some initial testing, we discovered I was not a match for James, but we decided to make it work through the Paired Kidney Exchange. My willingness to donate would result in James receiving a kidney from someone else and my kidney would go to help another person in need. Win-win! Thanks to our amazing Living Donor Coordinator Colleen Sheehan (with me in the photo above), we were part of a kidney transplant chain at Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem that is still going. Our initial chain of six has expanded to include at least 14 and even more! Everyone in our chain is doing great and our North Carolina chain folks get together as a new little family!

What about my kidney? My kidney flew Delta to Michigan!  It went on to help a stranger who had been on the waiting list for 7 years. While I don't know her, I know I have a kidney sister out there somewhere! Her living donor kept our chain going by donating her kidney to another stranger. It truly is an amazing process.

My experience mirrors that of most living kidney donors. I had a terrific living donor coordinator and medical team and was treated like a queen. My full recovery took me about 6 weeks and after 4 months, I have returned to all of my normal activities including running with my run club. Like 97% of living donors, I would absolutely do it again if I could. That’s a pretty amazing success rate!

Are YOU interested in living donation? Feel free to contact me at dmitchell@donatelifenc.orgor Katherine Ramirez at kramirez@donatelifenc.orgfor more information!