“On the way home from school one day I asked my oldest daughters this question. ‘If I have something someone else needs, and I don’t need it but they need it to live – what should I do?’ It was only a matter of seconds before they answered with a resounding, ‘Give it away!’ It was that simple to them and I decided to make it that simple for me as well.
A few days earlier I saw a video online of a woman who donated her kidney to another mom in her community. I texted my husband (while he was in another part of our house, as parents of four young children do) and asked him, ‘What would you think if I donated a kidney?’ He responded, ‘I’d love you even more.’ After seeing the video, I looked to see if I could find any stories about kidney donations happening here in Boston. What I found instead was a woman in need of a kidney. We shared the same blood type as well as the same profession. I felt a connection to this stranger and thought, ‘Someone should give this woman a kidney!’ It was then I felt the gentle response of a loving God telling me that I was somebody. With my husband’s encouragement, I filled out the initial evaluation online that night.
The evaluation led to a phone call about family history which led to an in-person meeting with the donor transplant team. I learned all about living kidney donation, met with a social worker to talk about the ways donation could impact me and became familiar with the donation process. I did preliminary blood and urine tests to see if I could donate as well as see if my intended recipient and I were a match. Although it looked as though we were a match at first, we ultimately were not – but that was when the first miracle happened – my intended recipient received a deceased donor kidney! She had gotten to the top of the list and had her transplant. 10 people on the transplant list die each day as they wait, so to say this was a miracle is not overstating it.
This was absolutely unexpected and incredible news, but I wasn’t sure what to do. When you are not a match, you can offer to be in a swap where I would donate to someone who needs a kidney while my intended recipient would receive a kidney from someone in another pair that doesn’t match. I was willing to do this but now it was no longer an option. I told my husband that I wanted to complete the testing to see if I could be a donor and if I could, then I would. I kept going back to what my wise 7 and 8-year-old daughters had said – ‘Give it away!’
I finished up my testing including more blood and urine tests, an EKG as well as a chest x-ray and CAT scan when I was finally approved to be a donor! I was healthy and my risks of any complications were very low. Donating a kidney does not change the life expectancy of the donor and my nephrologist was confident I could live a long and healthy life with just one kidney. I told my transplant team that I would like to move forward with donation and asked them to match me to someone at the top of the transplant list as an altruistic donor. This is called non-directed donation and these types of kidney donations can be the most successful because the only consideration is finding the best match. There are 94,000 people on the transplant list waiting for a kidney but there became one less on July 23rd of this year.
It was a joyful atmosphere that day and I was delighted to be able to welcome my team with, ‘Let’s party!’ as they prepped me for surgery. My girls, parents, husband and pastor prayed for me and my recipient. I felt much more excited than nervous that day. It had been 5 months since I filled out the initial online form and I felt ready, like I had been made to do this.
‘I love you. I’ll see you soon,’ my husband told me as he kissed me goodbye.
The surgery went off without a hitch and I settled in life with one kidney well. My daughters who had cheered me on and inspired me from the very beginning came to see me the next day before I was released. They were so proud and thrilled they could finally tell everyone, ‘My Mom donated a kidney!’ as they got me out of bed and walked me slowly around the hospital floor.
My husband brought me home later in the day and carefully tucked me into bed as I started to heal. Despite some pain in the beginning, I recovered better than anyone expected and was soon back to work part time and enjoying summer with my family.
It has been 5 months now and my daughters still like surprising people with their Mama’s kidney donation story. They ask if and when they can donate their own kidneys and love to educate others about the process. They are generous in a way I can only hope to be.
When people find out about my story they ask me why I donated my kidney to a stranger who I may never meet, and whose story I may never know, and it is pretty simple – because there was a need and I was someone who could meet that need. I do not need to know my recipient or the outcome for donation to be the right thing. The need for healthy living donors is enormous but I had the chance to make a difference for one person and their family, which will always be enough for me. I want others to know there is nothing particularly special about me that allowed me to donate. I am no better or brave or kind or loving than anyone else. I am a mom, wife and teacher just like millions of others who was able to pursue an incredible opportunity that was given to me.
My kidney was a gift to my recipient but living organ donation has been a priceless gift to me and my family. If I ever get to meet them in the future, that is what I will tell them. I will also tell them about how my daughters have taught me to hold things loosely and to give joyfully. I’ll tell them how I pray for them daily and my kind heavenly Father showed me, once again, that I matter. I am somebody.
I hope that sharing my journey can show others just how impactful living organ donation can be for donors and that it truly is better to give than to receive.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ashley Clark. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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