June 2015 I donated a kidney for my mom as part of a paired exchange.
My mom is an incredibly strong woman who has been through a lot. I just knew if I could help her get healthy again after her first transplanted kidney failed (it lasted about ten years), it’s absolutely something I had to do.
My mom and I were part of a kidney chain!
I was a pretty good blood match for most people so I got a lot of blood drawn to send off to multiple centers. In the end we had four centers involved in our chain: Madison, Tampa, Atlanta and LA. Eight people total, four donors, four recipients.
My kidney lives in Tampa! His donor’s kidney went to LA. LA to Atlanta. And my mom’s kidney came from there. Her donor is actually from northern Florida but the surgeries were done in Atlanta.
Everyone at the UW Transplant center in Madison has been wonderful. I am most thankful for Rebecca Hays, my social worker, who helped me through everything. Rebecca ran a donor mentor program where I was paired with someone who had donated but who was also in a similar situation as me. In this case, she was close to my age and had donated to her mother, although unlike us it was direct.
My mentor, bless her, took a lot of panicked calls from me with the ups and downs of the paired exchange process. She was wonderful. Now I am a mentor.
My family and boyfriend were always on board. We had gone through this before so it wasn’t new. I also did a ton of reading on my own, especially blogs and articles of former living donors. Not sure I recommend this! You might freak yourself out.
I did not pay for anything! My mom’s insurance covered it all. I had FMLA at work that covered me while I missed about a month.
As far as the donor process, you go through a full day of testing to make sure you are healthy enough to donate. They will not let you do it if you are at risk. They ask you questions to make sure you are truly making this decision in a healthy mindset and that you aren’t influenced or pressured in any way.
I talked to my mentor a lot. I’m not going to lie, I was always nervous but I never doubted that this was something I had to do. For the most part everyone was on board. Sometimes you get the occasional “Really? Are you sure?” but no one ever made me question what I was doing.
As far as advice I would give to others. Make sure you are in a stable place in your life that allows you to do it. I had a job that let me take time off and a wonderful support structure around me. At times it will be scary but they prepare you for every outcome. Always stay positive.
It will be one of the greatest things you ever do!
It’s the scariest most wonderful thing I have ever done! It has brought me together with the transplant and donor community. I love talking about it with anyone who will listen! And I have a stronger bond with my mom even though it’s not my kidney that she has.
My kidney recipient’s father (before I knew who he was) wrote into our local newspaper with a headline saying “Donor will save more than one life” because he is a firefighter and EMT who could now return to work. The letter was heartfelt, thankful and absolutely made me bawl. Someone showed me and asked if this was about me. With some deduction I was able to figure out it was me, who he was and find him on Facebook.
We had some communication early on but have lost touch. Although we don’t have the relationship I once thought we might, I am glad I was able to help him.
Hayley now designs a line of cards and products that celebrate organ donation and transplantation. She calls is SmORGANSbord.
Check it out on Instagram here
and Zazzle here
Location: Madison, WI