Tag Archives: Kidney Donation

I Gave My Kidney To Someone I’d Never Met

In 2014, Debra Brock was facing chronic renal failure after a 30-year battle with insulin-dependent diabetes. A mother of three, grandmother of six and great-grandmother of five, Debra knew she wouldn’t be able to continue supporting her family without a kidney transplant. That’s when family friend Amy Krontz made an incredible decision: she started the process of becoming a living donor for Debra, a woman she had never met.

touched by transplant full

How are you and Debra connected?

Amy: Debra’s sister and I had worked in some volunteer groups together, which is how I found out that she needed a donor. We did not meet until I received final approval to be her living kidney donor.

Amy and Deb Brock HelpHOPELive

Living donor Amy with Deb Brock

What made you decide to donate to someone you didn’t know?

Amy: Debra’s sister posted on Facebook about their family’s need to find a kidney donor and that they were fundraising with HelpHOPELive. I recalled the pictures and posts that expressed Debra’s importance as the primary matriarch in a very close and involved family. I was particularly moved by her role in her grandchildren’s lives. I realized that such a positive, loving influence would be a tragic loss. Once I found out that Debra had gone through dramatic weight loss and had taken measures to control her diabetes but that her kidney damage was still too severe to reverse, I wanted to try to help.

Deb Brock HelpHOPELive

Deb is the “matriarch” of her family, says Amy

What were the preparations like?

Amy: I was tested beginning in February 2014 and I donated in August 2014. I had a few blood draws, a 24-hour period of urine collection and a 3-hour glucose test. I also took part in an educational appointment in which I was thoroughly informed about the procedure, including what to expect and all of the possible complications related to living donation.

What would have happened if Debra didn’t get a kidney?

Amy: Debra would likely still be on daily dialysis and would be experiencing complications with not just her kidneys but with other organ systems by now.

Debra: I would have continued with dialysis and prayed for more time to look for donors. Before Amy donated her kidney to me, every day I was faced with death.

Deb Brock HelpHOPELive

“Every day I was faced with death” before the transplant, says Deb

How did the gift of life impact your health?

Debra: The big difference is, I feel terrific! I actually enjoy going to the bathroom now because of my improved kidney function. I have freedom to plan activities with my family and not worry about bringing along my dialysis equipment.

Amy: The procedure was easier to endure than I had imagined. I was well-informed and experienced less post-operative pain and recovery than I had initially anticipated. The risks involved in being a living donor are very small, and making some healthy lifestyle changes has helped me to avoid any complications. A little bit of my time and minor pain for a couple of weeks afterward were small sacrifices to enrich and extend the life of another.

Ultimately, my life has not been compromised in any way living with one kidney. Living donation vastly improves the chances of a successful transplant compared to deceased donor outcomes. If I had more kidneys to give, I would do it all over again, and I strongly encourage others to consider it as well.

Deb Brock HelpHOPELive

The gift of life has helped Deb return to her life with family and “new babies”

Amy, did fundraising provide you assistance as a living donor?

Amy: I was an unemployed nursing student when I donated. I was reimbursed for mileage and travel for testing and appointments related to the donation.

Debra, why do you fundraise with HelpHOPELive?

Debra: My kidney transplant social worker gave me materials to review, and I chose HelpHOPELive because of the reviews I read. I had enough concerns on my mind as I was preparing for the transplant, and HelpHOPELive eliminated my worries about money. Today, I fundraise for prescriptions, travel expenses for post-care treatment and funds in case any medical emergencies take place.

Deb Brock HelpHOPELive fundraiser

Deb and her family fundraise for ongoing post-transplant costs

Do you share a special bond today?

Amy: Most definitely. We remain in contact and I am very grateful for the experience and for Debra’s appreciation for each new day. The choice I made to become her donor is reaffirmed consistently through my interactions with Debra and her family.

Debra: Amy and I share a bond that is not comparable even to a sister or your best female friend. She has given me a part of her. She has given me life. She has given me more time to spend with my family. I love her.

Debra, what does hope mean to you?

Debra: Hope means that there is a tomorrow!

touched by transplant fullWant to make a difference in the lives of kidney transplant recipients and living donors? Make a donation to the HelpHOPELive General Operating Fund today and help us support community-based fundraising campaigns for families.

My experience as I consider becoming an altruistic kidney donor

Lynne Coughlin Samson, Executive Director and CEO of HelpHOPELive

Lynne Coughlin Samson, Executive Director and CEO of HelpHOPELive, recently decided to consider becoming an altruistic kidney donor. In honor of National Kidney Month and World Kidney Day, Lynne has offered to share her first-hand perspective on the donation process.  

When an altruistic kidney donation is directed that means an individual is donating their kidney to a specific patient, most commonly a relative or friend. A non-directed altruistic kidney donation is when an individual volunteers their kidney to start a chain of kidney swaps, helping patients whose loved ones may not be a compatible match. The National Kidney Registry has developed a powerful algorithm to match those who need kidneys with non-directed donors.

Years ago, I began to consider making an altruistic kidney donation to a friend’s son. I had always kept this possibility in mind, as his own parents were not a match. However, he is now an adult with children of his own who are likely much more viable donors.

Recently I began contemplating becoming an altruistic non-directed kidney donor. I see it as a way to share my gift of good health and to support those in critical need. I have an honest intent and am working to find answers to all the important questions I have about the process. And there are some tough questions to consider. What are the chances this could compromise my own health? How will my decision affect my family? What if my loved ones need me as a caregiver in the years ahead, and could complications related to my kidney donation limit my ability to fulfill that role?

As a first step towards making an altruistic kidney donation, I met with the nursing coordinator at Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia. She was well prepared to answer all of my questions about pain, how my kidney would reach a recipient, length of recovery, risk of death, complications, preparation, tests and insurance coverage. She took me through the process step-by-step from the medical and psychological assessment, to meeting with a nephrologist and the transplant surgeon. I was pleased to learn that my surgeon might be a woman urologist specially trained in transplant.

It turned out that the paperwork was relatively easy, and there was no need to bill my insurance company since costs are covered by a special fund for altruistic donors. It was at this stage that I took a hard look at this decision and asked myself some important questions. Will this decision compromise my health? How would I feel if my recipient died soon after transplant? Not great, for many reasons. How will I handle the pain? These questions reinforced the essential need to be informed about the facts and to assess how I really felt about this decision. But at some point you just need to trust your instinct, and mine said to continue the process.

The first test – a renal ultrasound – was uneventful, though the gel was cold. The technologist explained that they were looking at the size and general health of my kidneys and bladder, including whether any fluids were backing up into the kidneys and if there were any kidney stones. Next were blood tests.

In the “no good deed goes unpunished” category of doing something nice for others, blood tests were a bit of a challenge. The medical center I chose for the tests was near my home. An overworked receptionist tried to be helpful but had no idea what to do with my paperwork, which was necessary for the tests to be billed back to the donation center I was using. As I was providing her with more information, the lab began filling up with people arriving for their own blood work. They were very patient, and from my discussions with the receptionist they also learned why I was there. Soon I was leading a mini-tutorial on the issue of kidney donation! At least now six new people have learned about this option to help others.

When it came time for my blood to be drawn, my new friend the receptionist was a great “stick,” meaning she was able to get nine tubes of blood (!) and one urine sample with minimum pain and fuss. After that I was on my way, leaving behind a rainbow assortment of color-coded test tubes. I also learned about the next step – collecting urine samples for a full 24 hours. I am planning to do that on a Sunday when I will be home all day!

As I continue on this journey, I will keep you updated. But more than anything I feel confident that the decision to donate an organ is part of the fabric of being human, and another reflection of our mission at HelpHOPELive. There are so many ways to help each other. It might be individually with a kidney, or as a group by supporting the work of organizations like ours. In whatever way works for you, we certainly hope you will join in the effort to help others.