Archive for the 'Strangers' Category

Today I got to talk with my co-worker’s sister, who just had someone offer to test for her so that she can have a transplant. Nice gal. I really hope it all comes together for her.

She found a crazy stranger, just like I was. I always tell people in need of a kidney that you just need one crazy stranger.

It’s been four years and two months since I gave my spare to a stranger in Brooklyn, NY. He posts photos on his Facebook page of himself doing what he loves, and it makes me really happy.

Was it a good idea to have a major organ removed from my body and given to someone I didn’t know? It was the best idea.

The Rev. Santhosh George of the Malankara Orthodox Church wants to donate a kidney to a 16-year-old girl named Jayasree.

Unfortunately, in India, only blood relatives of the recipient are permitted to be living kidney donors. Jayasree is in full kidney failure, and the priest, who runs an orphanage, wants to save her life. He has resorted to a hunger strike to persuade the government to permit an exception and let him donate.

Jayasree’s family members have exhausted their  options, and the Rev. George has a demonstrated history of philanthropy. Can we agree that saving this child’s life will not contribute to organ trafficking and exploitation of the poor?

Three donors and three recipients comprised the kidney transplant donor chain that included Ronnie and Ruth White. Ronnie donated one of his kidneys to a stranger so that Ruth could have a kidney transplant from another stranger. Ronnie remains amazed.

“We still can’t get our heads around the fact this was possible.”

They had hassles with getting through all the tests, as is common, but in the end, the transplants took place in early 2010.

“As far as I know we were the first people in Northern Ireland to take part in this procedure, and some of the first in the UK. It’s absolutely incredible. I went into theatre at 9am and Ruth got her new kidney at about 3pm the very same day.”

Ronnie never looked back when he didn’t match Ruth, once he heard about the kidney transplant donor chain option.

“As soon as I heard that I thought that if I could help I wanted to go ahead. I may not have known the person who was going to get my kidney, but ultimately Ruth would benefit and as far as I was concerned I had two kidneys and only needed one of them, so it was a pretty straightforward decision. …

“I was sore for a couple of weeks but I helped to save lives and it has made such a difference to Ruth. We’re very pleased with how it all went.”

I can’t say it better than this writer does:

Claire Husted, from Palm Springs, Calif. was turning 50 years old. Claire is an ex-nun and was a volunteer in West Africa for 3.5 years, and has spent a lifetime helping other people. She wanted to celebrate the whole year from the moment of her 49th birthday to her 50th. As part of that celebration, she wanted to give thanks for the many blessings in her life.

Claire decided to help 12 strangers in celebration of her 50th year of life. At that time, she had no idea what she would do or how she would meet the people that she would help. She decided that one way she would help was she wanted to become a living organ donor. She never had any children herself, but wanted to give life to someone- so she decided a great way to do that would be to donate a kidney to a stranger.

Claire checked out and found Peggy Bender, a kindred spirit.

“What she is too humble to tell you is that she is a truly selfless inspiration to all who meet her. She is a source of comfort to those in need, a source of light to those struggling, and a source of unconditional love to her family and friends. She offers a rare acceptance of others, despite their flaws, that inspires me to be a better person. While her health is deteriorating, her heart grows as she continues to give of herself with a positive outlook and great enthusiasm,” wrote Peggy’s daughter Kim.

Their surgery will be’s 138th. Congrats to all.

My kidney sister Cara sends along the story of Brenda Bogue’s experience donating a kidney to a stranger.

I read the newspaper every day. … My journey began one day this past Summer when I came across an article about a man who lost his 16-year-old daughter tragically in a car accident. His daughter was an organ donor, and he was very inspired when he learned that her heart valves saved another person’s life. In her memory, he began to advocate for people to become organ donors.

Early on he learned of the need and opportunity to be a living kidney donor, and he did just this … which is what the article was about.

I, too, have made the decision to donate my organs when I die, but before reading the article this past Summer, I had no idea that it was possible to be a living kidney donor.  I also had no idea how many people were on the waiting list for a kidney, – 87,000 – and how many people were dying each year while waiting for one – approximately 5,000.

I was surprised to learn that a person can lead a normal life with only one kidney, and furthermore, I was encouraged to hear that the donor’s surgery is laparoscopic, which is less invasive than traditional surgery, with a much shorter recovery time.

Although there are always risks with any surgery, being a living kidney donor overall is very safe.

I am a Christian, and therefore I seek out God’s wisdom through prayer before making any big decisions.  Before I even finished reading the newspaper article, I felt God prompting me to consider being a living kidney donor.

I imagined what it would be like to have a family member whose kidneys were failing and in need of a kidney transplant, knowing that without it his/her quality of life would be greatly compromised and significantly shortened.  Undoubtedly, a few of my family members would step up to donate, but what if we learned that none of us were are a match; which unfortunately occurs about 30% of the time.  We would be disheartened; hope is lost. The average wait for a deceased donor kidney is five years.

But then our family learns of the concept of “kidney pairing,” which gives a person in need of a kidney a much better chance of receiving one, if they have a person willing to donate their kidney to another person who is a match.  We have hope again!

My decision to be a living kidney donor came after praying to God for guidance, talking with my husband Mike, and sister Stacey, putting myself “in the other person’s shoes,” and reflecting on the forty-three years of good health that God has blessed me with…for me it was a fairly easy decision.

In the subsequent weeks, I did some further research on the internet on the subject of being a living kidney donor. This included reading about the experiences of two recent donors, Cara Yesawich and Angela Stimpson. I found their blog sites to be very informative and inspiring. Another valuable site with a wealth of information is The Living Kidney Donors network.  There is a wealth of information on this site for both those needing a kidney and for living donors.  Harvey Mysel, founder of the non-profit organization, is a kidney recipient himself and I printed several articles from the site for my family to read so they could fully understand the process.

A very valuable source of information and support to me during my journey in being a living kidney donor, was the mentoring I received from Cara Yesawich.  Cara is an altruistic kidney donor who was the domino for eight people to receive a kidney in largest kidney pairing of Northwestern Hospital’s history.  She is very passionate about being a mentor for others who are on this journey, and in helping to raise the awareness of the need for living kidney donors.

She “walked me through,” each step of my journey and came to the hospital to offer her support immediately following my surgery, what a blessing she was to me!  For anyone considering being a living kidney donor, I strongly encourage you to take advantage of the “gift” of mentorship and I welcome the opportunity to share my experience with anyone.

Please feel free to e-mail me at:

My surgery was on December 30; I am an altruistic donor, and three people were able to receive a kidney in my pairing at Northwestern Hospital.  Everything went as planned; I spent one night in the hospital.  I experienced moderate pain the first several days and slept a lot.  After about a week I turned the corner and was able to return to work half days (my energy still wasn’t back 100%).

I was back to work full-time the third week and now I am about four weeks out from the surgery and feel back to normal. I plan on starting to run again in a week or two and am registered to run another marathon in September.

I received a beautiful card from the family of the gentleman who received my kidney in the kidney pairing …  part of it reads:

“Dear Brenda,

It is impossible to thank someone for a gift such as you have given to us.  Dialysis allowed my dad to live but your gift of a kidney has given him a renewed quality of life worth living, and for that we are eternally grateful….”

The sacrifice that I made in donating one of my kidneys was minimal, compared to the gift of an improved quality of  life which I was able to give to someone else.

Yisrael Konstantini thought he’d gotten all the transplant good fortune he was entitled to when he received a heart transplant. Then he found out he needed a kidney. Through his faith, he was able to find a living kidney donor in Mendy Mathless.

The article is an in-depth look at Yisrael’s experience of receiving such an amazing gift, closing with this about Mendy:

Mendy modestly told me that he did it with the belief that this is what should be done and that one should always think about others, about others’ pain. He said, “I have two kidneys and I can live a full life with one. Why did Hashem give me two kidneys? So that if I see a Jew in need of a kidney to live, I can give him one of mine. Boruch Hashem, I am healthy and don’t make too much of it, I am not the first one in the world to do this. Seeing you healthy is my reward.”

CBS News has done a lovely story about kidney  transplant swaps, including the genesis of the National Kidney Registry. Software CEO Garet Hil launched the largest national database of kidney donors after his daughter Samantha’s kidneys began to fail and she needed a kidney transplant.

“I didn’t even know I had two kidneys before this,” Garet said. “It was, you know, not on the radar.”

CBS goes on to detail a 10-kidney transplant chain that included none other than Laura Amador. Max Zapata was the crazy stranger who kicked off the chain that gave Laura a kidney.

It all started with Max Zapata, from Clovis, Calif., who kicked off this chain as the “good Samaritan” donor. He gave a kidney and expected nothing in return.

“I just really felt that it was something that I needed to do in my heart,” Zapata said. “I didn’t know where it would go, but that I knew that it would be something that would help someone out.”

It led to 10 people becoming more healthy, more productive, a bigger part of their families for a lot longer time.

So Laura’s brother Paul donated a kidney to Kirk Larson, whose wife, Teresa, was the next to donate. She found what a lot of living kidney donors find – the joy.

“The more involved you get and the deeper you get into the process – it’s a totally exciting experience really,” Teresa said.

Samantha Hil received a kidney from one of her cousins, but National Kidney Registry founder and dad Garet Hil says he got far more out of his efforts than a kidney for Samantha.

“What we’re doing right now, has had more impact than anything I’ve done, you know, ever. … When you see those people who have come out of these swaps and they’ve got the transplant, it’s a miracle,” Garet said.

It is a miracle. Get involved. You’ll be changed forever.

Jackie Gorman will donate a kidney to a man she doesn’t know. Though some of us might have trouble understanding why, she knows exactly why.

Above is the lead-in to an excellent article in the L.A. Times about Jackie’s decision to give a kidney to a stranger. Why is she going to be a living kidney donor? Why not?

But her family and doctors certainly did not take it all that well. Jackie faced most of the objections living kidney donors faced, but she knew the transplant surgery was safe and that she could save a life.

Great column, especially if you are considering living kidney donation and everyone around you is considering your sanity.

Catch the antics of Ms. Angela Stimpson over at her blog, OK Solo. She became a living kidney donor last week and lived to blog. Girlfriend gave up a kidney but retained her sense of humor.

If you need a kidney transplant, do everything you can to reach everyone you can. Try Facebook, try Craigslist, try everyone you can think of. The official list is your backup plan.

When David Chay’s kidneys failed, his wife, Sara, hit Google. There she found, a nonprofit site that helps people who need kidneys find people who want to be living kidney donors. Try that, too.

Tom Cavanaugh, a Los Angeles-based entertainment executive who worked on mega-hits like Avatar and television’s Glee, turned out to be a possible match. He volunteered to donate a kidney in honor of his father, who did the same, Nova reported. …

“We’re all walking around with this golden ticket that we can save someone else’s life, and I knew it was time to find somebody I can give that to,” Cavanaugh said.

David was impressed.

“To give his kidney to a stranger, over the Internet without even knowing what and where and when, I’m still trying to learn from him,”  said David Chay. …

“I’m always going to have a connection with these people,” Cavanaugh said.  “Especially when I look down and see my little scar on my tummy that it was for a good thing.”

“There are good people out there,” Sara Chay said.  “You shouldn’t lose hope.  You just have to look for the good people.”