I donated my kidney into Paired Exchange at Loyola University
August 10, 2017
I was an altruistic donor who shared my kidney with Bill Parra. His wife donated to a young Ukranian man, and his mother donated to a Mexican woman. All six surgeries (3 donations and 3 recipients) were done on the same day. We all met the day before Thanksgiving at a press conference hosted by Loyola. Because of the Ukranian and Mexican donors and recipient, there were translators present. It was like the United Nations of kidney donation!
As far as how I came to the decision, originally, I read a story on Facebook about a little boy in Kentucky who needed a kidney. His name matched that of one of my nephews and something just told me to check in to this opportunity. I'm a regular blood donor and had been on the bone marrow transplant list for decades, so this seemed very natural to me. We were found to be a match, but before our surgery date, he obtained a deceased-donor kidney. I explored what hospitals closer to me had a donation program and am very grateful I selected Loyola University Medical Center. They offered me the opportunity to do a direct donation (which could have been matched quickly), or allow them the time to design a chain.
Terri decided to wait for the chain. See below for the people involved.
As far as resources in helping me make my decision, I used several online sources (ALDOF, National Kidney Foundation, Facebook boards, and 2 friends who had donated to relatives).
As far as the process, at the time I tested and donated, I was between jobs. The donation definitely delayed me returning to work, but I didn't have to negotiate time off with an employer. Also, I'm 55 and my youngest child is 19, so childcare issues didn't exist. My friends and family were supportive and assisted with meals. I started a new position with a local non-profit organization 3.5 weeks after the surgery.
As far as preparing, I read everything I could. I'm not frightened by medical testing and I wasn't nervous about the procedure. Actually, I found the entire process fascinating and asked a lot of questions to all the lab techs and professionals I encountered.
I had an excellent support system. My husband and daughter at home were helpful and proud of my decision to donate. My older sons were supportive and stayed connected through the testing and recovery. I feel awkward when people throw so much praise my way...that seems misdirected. To me, the real heroes are those who undergo dialysis and juggle that huge time commitment into their life.
I would encourage anyone who is interested to reach out to other donors. There are several online groups who share a wide range of experiences. I also encourage them to seek out another program if they start somewhere that they don't feel comfortable. Not only was the location where I donated closer to my home, but I also felt much better about the transplant coordinator who worked closely with my case. Finally, I would encourage them to research the financial impact of this decision. Organizations do exist to assist with travel expenses and some states offer tax credits and benefits to donors (mine doesn't).
From a physical standpoint, it hasn't changed much. I'm aware of a few medications that I shouldn't use. From an emotional standpoint, I am grateful to find an opportunity to benefit someone in such a big way.
Below: Terri (donor) and Bill (recipient.
Location: Normal, IL