November 5th, 2020 was the one year anniversary since I became a living donor and I am still overwhelmed by the privilege I was given to share a kidney. I was 67 years old, so I was approaching the cutoff for donation. Who would have thought that at this time in my life I had a chance to be part of such a miracle?
To be honest - I wasn’t familiar with living donors. I have the organ donor symbol on my license, and I thought that would be wonderful - once I was gone. I had been widowed years ago and my husband was a donor so I knew the blessing of receiving that letter that tells you how your loved one helped others, and it brought a sense of comfort to know he had done that.
It was actually in a discussion with my granddaughter about making that organ donor notation on her new license that I heard two words - "WHY WAIT?" Just two words out of nowhere and then our conversation continued. Within a matter of weeks, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) came up twice. Initially, it came up in a local news segment where a woman was receiving a liver transplant at this hospital from a local young man. Then, I saw it again in a general article mentioning the transplant program.
Now I’m blonde and “older" but I had heard two words, seen two references to this hospital- so I wondered what is this all about? I googled the hospital, read about the donor program, spoke to the kidney transplant coordinator, listened to a webinar, sent in my medical history and I knew this was something I wanted to do. It touched a part of my soul. I didn't even know the words altruistic donor, I just knew I could help one person.
Slowly I began to share my desire to do this with others and that I would pursue testing. My daughters were wonderfully supportive, and I have a best friend and a church family that were surprised but supportive too. My husband Tony was asked how he felt about it - and he said he knew better than to express anything against it if God was telling me to do it. He’s a smart man and that is why we’ve been married twenty-one years.
I can honestly say I was never scared or nervous - just amazed that I was physically cleared, and so excited that I matched someone that needed me. That “stranger” isn’t a stranger. They are someone’s loved one and being able to help them live longer - well I’m not sure it can get any better than that. My daughters accompanied me for my one year follow up appointment and we spent several days with my recipient Peggy, her son, husband, sisters, and her best friend. That best friend was part of the living kidney donation chain to enabled Peggy to receive. We are now family. But had she elected to not know me, I was okay with that too. All that I hoped for was for her to be healthy, help extend her life, and improve her quality of life.
Besides having my two daughters, there has been no greater privilege than to have shared my life with another momma.
If I had more kidneys, I’d give more but I know that is a standard statement from donors. Understand we are indescribably gifted in return, there is an overwhelming sense of love, purpose, and kindness poured out on the donor, and for me, I felt closer to God through the experience. That He would whisper those two words to me and know that it would lead to Peggy seven hours away - I am humbled and so grateful.