I am amazed each time someone says to me – “You gave your kidney to a stranger!?” The answer is a simple “Yes.” There are two women in this transplant story—both of whom are healthy and made a conscious, soul-searching decision to help a fellow human being because for us, it felt like the right thing to do.
From 2005 until 2007 my husband, Sam, was in kidney failure. He was on dialysis machines 12 hours a week and his health was failing. When we were told that a transplant was his best option to resume a normal life, we started our search for a donor. Who knew that my right handed - brown eyed children (taking after their father as I am blue eyed and left-handed) had my blood type not their father’s. None of our immediate family was a match. Unlike most transplant patients, kidney patients do not have to wait for someone to pass away because a healthy adult can continue living normally with just 1 kidney.
I was desperate to find someone to help save my husband’s life. A letter to the editor that I had written appeared in the Cashiers Chronicle newspaper. (Cashiers is a tiny town in North Carolina that has one traffic light--actually it has two now, they recently added another one--and a population of 5,000 loving souls.) In the article that I had written to the newspaper, I pleaded for help to save Sam’s life.
Little did I know that an Angel named Mollie from that quaint little town would happen to read the article in the newspaper that day. Mollie, 32, was on her way to marriage counseling. Her husband had drug addiction issues and would soon be facing prison time. After reading the article, even with her life a little upside down, she called to say she knew she was a match and she wanted to help. Who would donate a kidney to someone you don’t even know? The answer is someone who had a 7 year old daughter and an 11 year old son--Mollie wanted to and she did!
I have now lived in the amazing world of organ transplant since June 13, 2007. My 60th birthday present and Sam’s Father’s Day present was a kidney from Mollie. The best present we could have ever received! Thanks to Mollie’s gift of life my husband is healthy again and has been able to be by my side to share and celebrate many special occasions with our family and friends. His quality of life now is a treasure. Mollie will always be in our hearts as her kidney continues to function in Sam‘s body. Every day I thank God for Mollie.
This story continues…now to my part of the story.
Two years ago I went to a committee meeting of transplant recipients and their caregivers. I was so excited to meet another kidney recipient who also had a living donor and I couldn’t wait to talk with him!He listened as I shared my story with him and then he said “I wish we could find a kidney for my friend who really needs one desperately.” Immediately, without hesitation I asked what his friend’s blood type was. Upon his response I replied, “we may have just found your friend a kidney!” It didn’t take long for the process to be set in motion.
I am a daughter--my mom just celebrated her 94th birthday! I am a wife of 43 years. I am a mom, blessed with three amazing children and their wonderful spouses. I am a grandmother of 8 beautiful grandchildren. I am a retired teacher. I am also a living donor.
On April 7, 2011, I had the privilege to give the chance of continued life to my recipient, Les. Strangers before, but no longer. I am am former teacher, I like a lesson plan. In life we plan and sometimes those plans get revised. My recipient, Les, is 3 years and 2 days younger than me. Les’ energy and quality of life has been restored, allowing him to return to work. Les and I are family now, sharing our lives together including celebrating the weddings of both of his children. I am officially a family insider!
The decision to donate a kidney is a very personal one, no one could have talked me into it. More importantly no one could have ever have talked me out of it. People often ask me how donating a kidney has affected my life. My answer is simple, “being a living donor has enriched my life every day in every way.” What better life lesson can we pass on from generation to generation? Two and a half years after my successful donation, I am healthy, happy and full of life. Hopefully this story will reach someone with a warm heart and the ability to donate the gift of life through organ donation.