Adventures of a Kidney Donor

September 25, 2010

The Gift of Life: Inspiring Stories

I just love this picture. At first it looks sad but it”s actually a happy moment. This is kidney recipient Roxanne Boyd Williams meeting her donor Tom Otten. They were part of the largest altrustic kidney swap ever performed. There were twenty-six operations over six days at Georgetown and nearby Washington Hospital Center. Thirteen people received kidneys from strangers.

The exchange started with a 45-year-old Maryland woman (who wished to remain annymous) inspired by President Obama’s call for volunteerism. She said: “I just wanted to help someone out that needed my help, to give them a better life.”

Recipient Solomon Weldeghebriel said: “I cannot explain in words. I can raise my children now. He gave me life”. Two of his three children wiggled on his lap as he met his donor.

Donor Sylvia Glaser sums up my feelings too: “People keep wanting to know why, why, why…It sounds very trite but you pass through this world, and what do you ever do that makes a difference?” Yes! This is exactly it! I won’t make much of a splash in the world but at least I can do this.

This is another great picture of Tom and Roxanne.

Go to List of Resources on Kidney Donation

August 6, 2010

A Curveball But in a Good Way

So…the story is, when Jackie got her kidney it was from someone who had passed away. The Paired Kidney Donation program we were in involves four living people. Right away we suspected that she had coincidentally gotten to the top of the OTHER donation list she was on. Yes, that is what happened. The most important thing OF COURSE is that she got a kidney and she is doing GREAT! Hurray!

So now on to plan B.  I called my transplant coordinator and he said that it was cool that I stepped up to help but now I wasn’t needed in the paired program with Jackie because she got her kidney a different way. I asked him if I could still donate to help someone. He said that if I wanted to, I could participate in what is called a  “non directed altruistic donor”  program.

If I match someone in the paired exchange database who needs a kidney, I donate to that person. Then the donor that they brought with them to the program (who doesn’t match them)  agrees to donate their kidney to someone else in the database. This creates  an “altruistic donor” chain. University of Michigan has a chain now that will hopefully result in a fifth person being transplanted as a result of one altruistic donor!

Why am I doing this? Some people are trying to talk me out of it. I know they are worried but when you read the facts about the laparoscopic method of the surgery, the normal life span of donors and the great need for kidneys it is an easy decision for me. If I can do for someone what has been done for Jackie, I am ready! It’s a wonderful thing to give someone a whole new life free of dialysis. I still can’t describe how wonderful it is to see Jackie walking around with her new kidney.

I have to go back to University of Michigan to talk to a psychologist. I already talked to the social worker when I was there before so they could make sure that I am not being coerced or paid and that I am psychologically up to this. Since this is a different program, their rules require that I go through that interview again. No problem.

I told Jackie and the social worker months ago that even if I wasn’t giving a kidney to Jackie directly or indirectly (turns out I am not) I would still donate because of the great need. Why should someone die waiting if I can help? Jackie told me I was still part of the process of her getting a kidney, psychologically if not literally. SHE deserves the credit for being so brave and taking on that big surgery on such short notice, but I am glad we are in this together.

Here are some definitions from the National Kidney Foundation:

A NEAD™ chain (Never Ending Altruistic Donor chain) begins with one non-directed (altruistic) potential donor. In this program, the non-directed donor gives to a person waiting for a transplant, and that recipient’s willing—but incompatible—donor gives to another person waiting, and so on. Each living donor in this system gives to a stranger, and the chain of donors is kept going as long as possible.

Non-directed Donors. Someone who donates a kidney to anyone in need of a kidney transplant. Non-directed donors are not related to or known by the recipient, but make their “gift” purely out of altruistic motives.

For more information on altruistic donation go to:

Go here for Resources on Kidney Donation

Blog at