April is National Donate Life Month. According to the Health Resources & Services Administration, as of March 2023, over 100,000 men, women and children in the United States are on the transplant wait list. Although last year over 42,000 organ transplants were performed, there are still many waiting for life-saving organs.
This post discusses the stories of two Connecticut women, one an organ donor and the other a recipient. Only first names and ages are being referenced to protect the privacy of all parties touched in the organ donation process.
In August 2021, Mary read a Facebook post of a local man (a friend of a friend) needing a kidney. Mary has always been on the bone marrow registry and was a surrogate mother, however, she never thought of being an organ donor prior until seeing the social media post.
After being screened, it was determined Mary was a match. Her information was entered into an Organ Exchange, and it turned out by coming forward to be a donor, she helped two people. A better match was found for the person she was being screened for, and Mary’s kidney was given to a local woman in need without a donor.
Mary had strong family support throughout the process, and she stated the procedure was much easier than she expected. “I am blessed, and I want to help others in anyway that I can. It was an amazing experience, and I wish more people would consider donating,” she stated.
In March 2022 at age 57, Mary underwent surgery; she was up walking that day, discharged from the hospital on the following day, and her full recovery took six weeks. She went back to work when cleared medically. She said she never realized the impact of her donation until the person originally intended to receive her kidney reached out at his one-year transplant anniversary. He shared with her his plans to celebrate the day, which he said would not have happened if not for her willingness to be screened to donate.
Organ donation also had a positive impact on Ashley. She was 35 at the time of her kidney transplant. It was a good friend who selflessly volunteered to donate her kidney which was a perfect match!
Since the time Ashley was in her early twenties, her doctors were monitoring high protein in her urine. She was not diabetic and had no other chronic medical conditions. In April 2020, her kidney function declined rapidly, and she started peritoneal dialysis, a daily treatment that can be done at home for those with kidney failure. In June 2021, she received her new kidney. Although she had complications early on in recovery, she is now doing very well. She has two young daughters and is very thankful for all the family support both before and after her transplant surgery. She also went back to work full-time a month after her procedure.
“When possible, I would encourage others to consider being a living donor. My new kidney changed my life. I look forward to spending time with family and friends and watching my daughters’ grow-up. I am extremely thankful every day to my friend who gave me her kidney,” Ashley said.
At National Health Care Associates, our affiliated skilled nursing centers can help individuals following transplant surgery requiring short-term rehabilitation to become a better, brighter, and stronger version of themselves through an interdisciplinary team approach to care. For more information visit, www.nhca.com.
For more information on becoming an organ donor, visit www.organdonor.gov.
Column is written by Laura Falt, director of business development in Connecticut. Laura welcomes the opportunity to be a resource to the community on services for older adults and is often featured in local publications.