Tag Archives: kidney transplant

Touched by Transplant: Life With PKD and My “Superhero” Living Donor

Help Hope Live patient Liz Casperite received a kidney transplant with help from living donor Maria Weaver-Hollowniczky in September 2015. The lifesaving gift to fight Liz’s polycystic kidney disease (PKD) cut short her anticipated 5-year wait for a deceased donor kidney. Here’s how Liz has been touched by transplant.

Touched by Transplant 2017 Help Hope Live


If you are like most people, polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is the most common genetic disease you’ve never heard of. I was diagnosed with PKD in 2004 at age 32. A routine physical found slightly elevated blood pressure. My general practitioner was proactive in ordering additional tests. During the final test, an ultrasound, they found innumerable cysts on my kidneys and liver. Average kidneys are the size of a fist. My kidneys were growing to the size of footballs.

Liz Casperite Help Hope Live

Liz was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease in 2004

When you have PKD, the veins in your body that help filter blood grow into irregular cysts instead of growing straight. Eventually, blood that gets caught in the cysts and doesn’t filter leads to kidney failure.

After I was diagnosed, I learned that PKD affects more people than sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy and down syndrome combined. I also learned that there is no cure for PKD, and that my best chance for a healthy life would be to join the kidney transplant waiting list. I was on the transplant waiting list for two and a half years without getting “the call.”


When I was in renal failure due to PKD, I had very little energy. As my kidney function decreased, I could really only do one activity per day: take a shower, cook, or grocery shop, but not more than that. My kidney function dropped below 20% and I knew I did not have long before my kidneys would fail. More than 10 people were tested to become a living kidney donor for me, but none were approved through the rigorous health testing process.

Liz Casperite Help Hope Live

Once listed, Liz reached out to find a living kidney donor

I got the word out that I needed a living donor using car magnets, t-shirts, and even a sign outside of my house. A friend created a post for me on Facebook and, as friends shared it, a total stranger to me saw it and decided to get tested. That’s how I met my angel, Maria!


After months of testing, we found out that we were a match. I was very fortunate to receive a kidney from a living donor right before I would have had to go on dialysis. Living donor kidneys last almost twice as long as deceased donor kidneys, on average.

Maria hates being called a hero. But she’s reluctantly agreed to the title “superhero” instead! She says that since health was her superpower, she knew she had to share it with others.

Liz Casperite Help Hope Live

Living donor Maria, left, has “reluctantly agreed to the title of superhero”


Many people think transplant is a cure, but really, a transplant is just a treatment for kidney failure. I am fortunate in that my PKD will not attack the new kidney, but I have a polycystic liver that will continue to grow in size and will require additional treatment.

Today, I follow a strict regimen to suppress my immune system to keep the kidney. I take medication every day, exercise and eat a plant-based whole foods diet. Even though I went to physical therapy after the transplant and followed doctor instructions, I got a serious hernia. An operation fixed the hernia but I am now restricted from ever lifting more than 10 pounds. As a treatment, transplantation comes with its own very serious side effects. Being permanently immunosuppressed means being very careful about who I encounter. Even a small cold can negatively affect my new kidney function.

Liz Casperite Help Hope Live

Liz says life after transplant involves permanent lifestyle changes


I still actively fundraise for Help Hope Live. The funds raised in my honor are indispensable for helping me cover the monthly cost of post-transplant medications and trips to and from my transplant center for continuing care.

Liz Casperite Help Hope Live

Liz creates Donor Beads in exchange for donations to Help Hope Live


I am a very active advocate for transplant. I have been lobbying Congress since 2006 to support kidney-related health care legislation. Maria and I were recently in DC to lobby for the Living Donor Protection Act of 2017 to help eliminate barriers to living donation. We volunteer with the National Kidney Foundation, the PKD Foundation and Gift of Life, and we participate in walks and events every year to raise funds and awareness. I have spoken at high schools about kidney disease and we both act as mentors to those starting out the transplant process. There are almost 100,000 people waiting for a kidney in the U.S. and we are passionate about spreading the word to make a difference.

Liz Casperite Help Hope Live

Liz, right, uses every opportunity to advocate for kidney disease patients and donors

My donor, Maria, and I speak to everyone we can about living donation. Maria was inspired to donate a kidney to me because she knew someone who had donated. We hope to be those people for others.

Liz Casperite Help Hope Live

“Kidney sisters” Maria and Liz


Touched by Transplant 2017 Help Hope LiveLiz and Maria support transplant candidates and living donors through the Kidney For Liz Facebook page. Liz fundraises for the Mid-Atlantic Kidney Transplant Fund at helphopelive.org

April is Donate Life Month, and We Are Touched by Transplant

April is National Donate Life Month, a commemoration that we and our patients love to celebrate. This year, Donate Life America, who launched the awareness month in 2003 with its partners, has chosen a special symbol to mark the month: a pinwheel.

Donate Life Month pinwheel 2017

As the organization explains, the imagery is “symbolic of an instrument that turns obstacles into opportunities. Each Donate Life pinwheel has four sails supported by one stem, symbolizing the power one person has to be an organ, eye, tissue or living donor. This April, we encourage you to stop to feel the breeze, watch the pinwheels and think of the lives of those touched by donation and transplantation.”


Since April 2016, 177 Help Hope Live patients have received life-changing transplants. Let’s hear some of their testimonies.

Touched by Transplant 2017 Help Hope Live


“Alive Again” with a Kidney and Liver


Brent Lauffer has fought congenital hepatic fibrosis (an inherited liver disease) since his teenage years. He received a liver/kidney transplant in January 2016.

“The liver is continuing to work and the new kidney is putting out urine!” he wrote in an update on his Help Hope Live campaign page. “As I now live, having received my liver and kidney transplants, I want to thank YOU for your help. You give me HOPE for a bright tomorrow. God bless you for your prayers and support.”

Brent Lauffer Help Hope Live

“You give me HOPE for a bright tomorrow.”

Brent speaks to some of the everyday blessings that came from the transplant, saying “it is amazing to wake up and NOT feel sick, hungry, and have to pee! I am alive and headed towards a real life again. I am so thankful for my friends and family and those whom I’ve never met who are supporting me.”

“I’m pictured here with George. He received the other kidney (from our deceased donor)!“

Brent Lauffer Help Hope Live

Brent with George, who received a kidney from the same donor

Brent fundraises for the Help Hope Live Mid-Atlantic Liver/Kidney Transplant Fund. Fundraising gives his community a way to tangibly support his transplant recovery journey. As one contributor wrote to Help Hope Live, “You are on the side of the angels with the work that you do.”


A Record-Setting Recovery


Living with end-stage renal disease and in need of a pancreas/kidney transplant, Kathe Wimberly Neely has been fundraising with Help Hope Live since 2011. She witnessed countless patients receive the gift of life as she prepared, year after year, for her own miracle. In February 2017, “the call” finally came.

“Two weeks ago, I received the call,” Kathe posted in March. “One week ago, I was discharged from the hospital–a record recovery, according to my medical team. Another record, according to my pharmacist: the fewest discharge meds she had ever seen. My healing has been amazing. Very few side effects–all very manageable. It’s all temporary and I will get through it with a smile.”

Kathe Neely Help Hope Live

Kathe says she is experiencing “a record recovery”

While the gift of life was long-awaited and personally impactful for Kathe, her post-transplant thoughts were with the donor: “That was probably the day a family was facing the greatest heartache one can even imagine. In my eyes, they were so brave to go through such a time while also making some decisions that would forever change my life and the lives of possibly many others with their gift of organ donation. This family, though I do not know who they are, is in my thoughts and prayers daily. This family is who I think of every single night as I fall asleep. I hope to know them one day when they are ready.”

Kathe’s life post-transplant includes a wealth of community support. “Life is grand,” she reported, as “each and every person I know and love brings sunshine to my life. I have met many new people along my journey, each one adding new rays and brightness to my appreciative and over-flowing heart. Again, words escape me.”

Kathe Neely Help Hope Live

Kathe with her custom Donate Life “Pay It Forward” plate

Sometimes the beauty of new life lies in the smallest details, as Kathe’s frequent updates highlight. “Couldn’t sleep, so I came downstairs to sit on the sofa because I can,” she posted. “I’m not tethered to a 15-foot tube that’s attached to a dialysis machine in my bedroom anymore. This is amazing!”

Kathe fundraises for the Help Hope Live South-Atlantic Kidney/Pancreas Transplant Fund. “Love how much you do for others,” she wrote to us. “Much love and thanks for the amazing work you do. I’m so glad to work with my Help Hope Live fundraising team on my transplant journey.”


New Lungs, New Life


Pat Donovan and his family were plagued by uncertainty when he was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a chronic lung disease where the cause is generally unknown and the only treatment is a double lung transplant. Pat was fortunate to receive a transplant in July 2016 after only 30 days on the transplant waiting list.

Pat Donovan Help Hope Live

Pat received a double lung transplant to fight IPF

“The miracle of Pat’s transplant continues,” reads a recent update on his Help Hope Live campaign page. “Our gratitude is overflowing! April is Donate Life Month and we celebrate Pat, who is doing extremely well, slowly and steadily regaining strength at this stage of his recovery. Walking without [supplementary] oxygen was made possible by an organ donor! Pre-transplant, even simple activities left him gasping for breath and coughing relentlessly.”

Pat Donovan Help Hope Live

“Made possible by an organ donor!”

Along with an incredible improvement in health comes the unfortunate and ongoing burden of transplant-related costs. “There is a need to continue to raise funds for uninsured transplant expenses,” explained an update. “The cost of radical dietary changes to stave off infection and organ rejection are real. Co-pays and deductibles are a concern for all of us. The daily medications he will need for a lifetime are literally a matter of life and death. Travel, lodging, and food for trips from Pat’s home in central Maine to the Boston transplant clinic are not as frequent, but they do come with a cost.

Pat Donovan Help Hope Live

Post-transplant care and medical needs “come with a cost”

Pat fundraises for the Help Hope Live Northeast Lung Transplant Fund.


Fundraise to Sustain the Gift of Life


Touched by Transplant 2017 Help Hope LiveAs Help Hope Live patients have expressed time and time again, a transplant can be an incredible opportunity for greater health and happiness, but it isn’t the end of the road. Fundraising can help to offset some of the lifelong financial burdens of life pre- and post- transplant, including testing, donor search fees, anti-rejection medications and medical travel for routine follow-up care.

Donate Life Month is a great opportunity to start or re-start a transplant fundraising campaign. Help Hope Live was founded in 1983 by a transplant surgeon and his wife, a nurse, who wanted to help more patients have access to transplant procedures. Since our founding, our community-based fundraising campaigns have provided more than $67 million in financial support to cover patients’ unmet transplant related expenses.

Stay tuned for a whole month of memorable Touched by Transplant stories, and keep your pinwheel spinning.

Voices Of Hope: “No Matter What Happens, We Always Love Each Other”

Yusef Harris is a loving father and a longtime community volunteer and youth mentor. Combating health issues since 2004, Yusef needs a kidney transplant to live a long and healthy life. He and his family have turned to HelpHOPELive for fundraising support.

Yusef Harris HelpHOPELive

Yusef is fundraising or a kidney transplant with support from his family

As he copes with the challenges of end-stage renal failure and exhausting dialysis treatments, Yusef draws inspiration from his family to stay positive and keep fighting. We asked daughters NaQari and Miyala about fundraising and sticking together as a family in the face of challenging circumstances.


How is your family helping Yusef to manage fundraising?


Miyala: We help sell shirts and do our best to promote his HelpHOPELive campaign and let others know about it. We have all purchased and worn his #LemonadeLife clothing as well! We started the #LemonadeLife hashtag with our father because, as our dad puts it, “I refuse to let kidney failure end what I know to be a meaningful life.”

NaQari: We also go out with him and educate people about kidney failure and being organ donors using HelpHOPELive brochures and bracelets.

Yusef Harris HelpHOPELive

“When life gives you lemons…”


What are you currently fundraising for to help Yusef?


NaQari: We are currently fundraising to help cover the bills that come with the kidney transplant surgery and the medications he will need to live with a new kidney.


When did you first realize how expensive a transplant could be for your family?


Miyala: When we took time to talk about the transplant process and what we would all have to go through, we learned about the financial commitment.

NaQari: I realized the financial commitment the moment my father began to take precautions and go through all the necessary steps required for him to be a candidate for the transplant surgery. I learned about the cost mostly from my father, and I also learned through research on the Internet and heard about the financial component from people who had received a transplant who posted about it on Facebook. I was told that the anti-rejection medications would be between $200 and $300 per month for the rest of his life.

Yusef Harris HelpHOPELive

Yusef will take on the financial burden of transplant with help from family and friends


Is your community supportive of what your family is going through?


Miyala: Everyone is there for us if we ever need anything. We have people we can count on.

NaQari: Our church family and Facebook community is very supportive. They understand that my father is going through tough circumstances and they do everything they can to help, whether that is donating or sharing my father’s story.

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How do you feel about fundraising with HelpHOPELive?


Miyala: It’s been great. My dad talked to me about working with HelpHOPELive and what is being done to help us is wonderful.

NaQari: I love fundraising with HelpHOPELive! They provide a professional-looking site and help with the work necessary for my father to raise funds.

Yusef Harris HelpHOPELive

NaQari appreciates that HelpHOPELive provides “help with the work necessary for my father to raise funds”


Do you think it can be difficult to stay positive while on the transplant waiting list?


Miyala: I know for a fact it’s difficult. Having to wait is hard. Your whole life depends upon what happens at that point. I just say to him and anyone else, never give up. God has a plan for you.

NaQari: It can be very difficult staying positive while on the waiting list because so much can happen. You can get an at-risk donor or someone who doesn’t match your blood type, and that makes you think more about the possible complications that come with the surgery. My advice is to pray and keep a positive spirit, because if you think positive you will have positive results.


Is it challenging to watch your father cope with a chronic health condition?


Miyala: I know that things are hard but at the same time, you never know exactly what that person is going through or feeling. You want to understand, but sometimes that’s hard. It hurts to see the pain that they go through.

NaQari: My dad had to quit working because of his health. He couldn’t work for long before he experienced pain. My dad has had small bouts of depression and he tries his best to be positive. It affects all of us because we are all so used to seeing that spark in his eye. It is difficult to watch my father cope with his health condition because I can’t experience it or take away the pain that comes with it, nor can I take away all the risks and what-ifs.


What’s the best part about being a member of your family?


Miyala: No matter what we’re going through, we’ve been taught to stick together, and that’s what we do. I always know that my dad and everyone else in my family is there for me.

NaQari: No matter what happens, we always love each other and have fun together.


Tell us a little bit about your dad’s role as a youth mentor in the community.


NaQari: My dad has mentored and become a father figure for many young men in our church community and he has helped them with everything from homework to life lessons. He loves mentoring young people because he wants to help them become wonderful men and keep them from being another statistic in their neighborhoods.

Yusef Harris HelpHOPELive

Yusef’s community is grateful for his work in youth mentoring

It became a part of his life when these individuals were born and came to our church. On a day-to-day basis, he is doing everything he can to better himself. Then he calls or messages the individuals or their guardians or parents to check up on them to see how things are going and if he can help them in any way.


When it comes to your dad’s life, from living gracefully with a chronic condition to volunteering and mentoring at-risk youth, what are you most proud of?


Miyala: I love that my dad took his story and made it into something so positive. He wants everyone to know that life will give you lemons, but all you have to do is make lemonade. It’s never over. I just want my father to know that I am very proud of what he’s done. He has helped mold me into the young lady that I am, and I love him for that.

NaQari: Even when he doesn’t feel good, he finds a way not only to be my father but a father for other children who don’t have one. To me, that is the most selfless thing I can think of, because he provides for those children as well as us.  My dad has found a way to love his wife and two daughters unconditionally while giving the same love to many other kids at the drop of a hat. He takes care of them just like he would take care of us. I love that about my dad.

Yusef Harris HelpHOPELive

Yusef’s family and community are behind him on his transplant journey


To learn more about Yusef, NaQari and Miyala, visit helphopelive.org.  Want to help support transplant families? Make a donation to HelpHOPELive and find out what else you can do to raise awareness and support families facing a medical crisis.  

Ask A Professional: How To Prepare For A Kidney Transplant

There are more than 100,000 people waiting for kidney transplants in the United States. Over 3,000 new people are added to the kidney waiting list each month on average. We spoke with Kelli Collins, Senior Director of Patient Services for the National Kidney Foundation, to find out how transplant candidates can get a better understanding of their condition and the costs associated with transplantation.

National Kidney Foundation logo


Can waiting for a transplant take a toll?


Waiting for or receiving a transplant can be difficult emotionally. The transplant evaluation is extensive and requires multiple appointments and follow-ups. Some tests need to be redone each year to keep information up to date. The waiting list can be long: in the U.S., you could wait for a kidney for between three to seven years or longer depending on your age, blood type and other factors. Living donation can also be emotionally charged, especially if people expected to offer their kidney do not, or those who offer turn out not to be a good match.

waiting

Waiting for a transplant can take an emotional toll.


What are some things you can do to prepare for a transplant?


Make sure that you take good care of yourself and follow the care plan you create with your health care practitioner while you wait for a transplant. Following a kidney-friendly diet, maintaining a healthy weight, taking your medications and attending medical appointments as required are vital parts of staying healthy while waiting for a transplant. It’s also important to plan ahead for potential financial burdens post-transplant.

diet

Follow care advice, including maintaining a kidney-friendly diet


What’s the best way to help someone who is listed for a kidney transplant?


Most people are not familiar with the effects of kidney disease and what dialysis or a transplant entails. Talk with your friends or family members about how they are feeling and ask them how you can help support them. Often just having someone acknowledge and listen to their feelings or concerns is helpful.

connect

Acknowledge your loved one’s thoughts and concerns

Kidney failure affects the entire family, so relationships may become strained as everyone tries to cope and support the patient. Talk to each other and seek professional support as needed. If you are facing kidney failure or preparing for a transplant, remember that you are not alone. There are many resources that can support you along the way. Understanding the process and being prepared will make you feel more confident in managing your condition.


What are some of the most common transplant-related questions you receive through the NKF Cares Helpline?


NKF Cares most often receives questions from patients and family members looking for guidance on how to get on the transplant list or for general information about what the transplant evaluation and surgery entails. Additionally, we receive calls from people seeking financial assistance resources either to help with the costs related to transplant surgery or for helping to cover medications after transplant. We also receive calls from people interested in living donation or patients interested in materials on living donation to share with their friends and family.

red phone

The NKF Cares Helpline offers transplant general info, guidance and support


What is the most common transplant misconception you have heard?


The most common myth is that a transplant is a cure for kidney disease. This is not the case; a transplant is a treatment option. It is often viewed as an ideal option because a successful transplant allows patients to return to living close-to-normal lives. But after receiving a transplant, patients need to be vigilant about taking their prescribed medications daily to keep their body from rejecting the transplanted kidney. Patients must follow a healthy diet, exercise regularly and follow up with their care team to monitor kidney function and overall health.

kidney transplant quote HelpHOPELive


What transplant-related expenses do candidates need to prepare for?


The expenses you incur depend on the type of insurance coverage you have. If you have Medicare due to kidney failure, this coverage will end three years after your transplant. Additionally, Medicare only covers 80 percent of the cost of immunosuppressant medications. These medications can be very expensive. Co-pays are usually a set fee for each prescription. Co-insurance is a percentage of the total cost of the medication; for example, you may be responsible for 20 percent ($2) of a $10 medication. But for a medication that costs $10,000 per month, you would be responsible for $2,000.

www.SeniorLiving.Org

Talk to your team about financially preparing for a transplant.

It can be difficult to completely anticipate all costs associated with transplant, so talk with your transplant team about what to expect so you can plan accordingly. We offer resources and tools to help you consider costs, plan for those expenses and learn more about common insurance terminology.


The NKF Cares Helpline offers support for all people affected by kidney disease, organ donation or transplantation. It’s designed especially for patients, family members and care partners. Trained specialists will discuss your concerns and send free information to help you learn more they are available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST.

These Families Were Touched By Transplant

April is Donate Life Month, an opportunity to recognize and celebrate how organ donors and transplants have made a difference for families facing a medical crisis. Since April 2015, 167 HelpHOPELive clients have received life-altering transplants. Here are just a few of their stories.

touched by transplant full


A Transplant Can Change Your Life…


Terry, one month post-transplant: “To watch a man, a Marine Corps veteran, who has been robust and active all his life, become tired and sick and age overnight due to failing kidneys was torture for those who know and love him. Now, however, to watch that same man laugh and smile again less than 12 hours after receiving the amazing gift of renewed life through his daughter’s donated kidney is beyond words.”

Terry Cobb HelpHOPELive

Terry with his faithful friend


Deanna, two years post-transplant: “Deanna celebrated two years post liver transplant this past Saturday. Every day I look at her and think, “Wow, little girl, you are a miracle.”

Deanna3

Deanna proudly represents the gift of life


Emily, one month post-transplant: “Multiple family members, church friends and former classmates called to be tested for Emily, but her donor ended up being a near stranger–someone she had only worked with for a month when the donor discovered Emily’s need and said it was always a dream to donate a kidney. The two are no longer strangers!”

Emily Roush HelpHOPELive

Emily with her “reasons to live!”


Rick, seven months post-transplant: “I’ve got a new lease on life now. I can look forward to seeing my family and my grandkids again. I have realized that I can do this and I see the light at the end of the tunnel…there’s a lot more hope than there used to be.”

Rick1

Rick’s gift of life


Rachelle, 10 months post-transplant: “Today was my last day of chemo! Wednesday I celebrate my new stem cell birthday!!! Thanks for helping us get our life back!


Dudley: “I had a successful kidney transplant on March 3,2016. I could not have done it without your support and generous donations. I hope to…return to life with my new kidney, which has given me a new lease on life.”

Dudley Edmondson HelpHOPELive

Dudley (left) with his donor


Amy, one year post-transplant: “I feel outstanding! No longer need supplemental oxygen or a wheelchair! I am getting my life back!! Thank you all so much from the bottom of my heart!!! Every breath is a gift.

Amy E Burriss HelpHOPELive

Amy received “a perfect new set of lungs!”


…But A Transplant Can Also Be Financially Devastating


A transplant is not a fix-all solution. Life post-transplant may include unexpected out-of-pocket expenses and additional medical and financial concerns:

cost of transplant

Transplants come with a lifetime of expenses

“My employer’s leave of absence gives me…12 weeks [but] I am due to be out for three months. It looks like I will be out for 6 weeks unpaid.

“It’s been over 3 months and she’s just now NOT feeling awful. Now her function and counts are improving so we again have hope she will have some normalcy soon.”

“I am still unable to work and expect to be in financial dire straits for the next year.”

We were not prepared for the post-transplant care expenses. That has taken a financial toll on our family. Some things you have to take into account are lodging, rent or mortgage payments while you relocate, meals, gas, airfare, and lab and biopsy expenses, which are ongoing, frequent and costly.”

“Thirty-six months after my transplant date, Medicare will terminate my coverage and I will be fully responsible for all transplant-related medical expenses for the rest of my life. The expensive anti-rejection medications that I have to take for my lifetime are out-of-pocket expenses that will cost be hundreds or thousands every month.”


Fundraising Can Make A Difference!


touched by transplant fullA transplant is not the end of the journey. After a transplant, families may face a lifelong list of out-of-pocket medical expenses. That’s why HelpHOPElive is here to help transplant recipients and their families fundraise for a lifetime of transplant-related expenses, from immunosuppressant medications to follow-up medical visits and emergency care.

This video highlights how fundraising with HelpHOPELive can impact an individual’s life before, during and after a transplant. Visit helphopelive.org today to start or re-ignite a transplant fundraising campaign.

Voices Of Hope: I Donated A Kidney To My Best Friend

Author and professional rock musician James Michael McLester was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease in his early thirties. He endured 13 years of regular hemodialysis before his best friend, Laura Suarez McCutcheon, offered to donate one of her kidneys to James to save his life. On December 9, James received the gift of life from Laura.

James Michael McLester living donor HelpHOPELive

Laura donated a kidney to her best friend, James


How did you find out that Laura was a compatible donor?


James: Laura and I were like brother and sister when we were involved in the same music scene in the ‘80s. We lost touch for twenty seven years. In June 2014, Laura sent me a message on Facebook asking about my life. I shared with Laura my new autobiography and a bit of my medical history. At the time, I was dependent on dialysis and I was coping with shortness of breath, fatigue, anxiety, hypertension and severe fluid restrictions. Laura volunteered and was tested as a living kidney donor for me at the Texas Transplant Institute in San Antonio, and she was a match.

Laura: I really didn’t think too much about it when I made the decision to get tested. I just wanted to help him. During the months that followed, I never gave it a second thought. By nature, I am a worrier, and I’d never had surgery before, but I knew this was the path God chose for me. I never had one second of apprehension.


What would your future have looked like without Laura’s gift?


James: As a professional musician, I was unable to tour overseas in several countries where dialysis is either unavailable or reserved for extremely wealthy citizens. I would have faced twenty to thirty years of dialysis three times every week. I would have had to endure continued stress and anxiety and an income decreased by 80 percent due to my dialysis schedule.

James Michael McLester HelpHOPELive

James would have faced ongoing health struggles without a donor


How did you feel knowing that she was willing to give the gift of life to you?


James: Before Laura, five different kidney donors were tested for me between 2007 and 2015, and each was unable to donate either because of medical reasons (blood type, health issues) or personal circumstances. After I enjoyed dinner and a long talk with Laura and her fiancé, Chris, we both started to feel comfortable proceeding with the kidney transplant work-up to determine her eligibility to donate. Laura exemplified unconditional love towards me. She is a giving friend to all who know her.

Laura: Once we found out I was a match, we were so excited, I think James was in shock!


Do you two share a special connection now?


James: Laura and I both love the Lord with all of our hearts and realize that He is our source for giving thanks, walking in grace and mercy, and eternally growing in compassion. Everywhere we now travel in this life, we will illustrate a divine portrait of giving and receiving.

Laura: He is my best friend, brother and confidant. Our bond is unbreakable! Our relationship is one of true, honest love and respect.


What is the most exciting part of life after transplant?


Laura: James is very happy post-transplant! He’s making plans and looking forward to his future and the possibilities it holds. I love to see him smile!

James: I can now look forward to touring with my various musical projects, traveling, starting a family, and continuing to share my story for God’s glory.

James Michael McLester HelpHOPELive

James looks forward to touring with several bands post-transplant


Do you still have medical expenses to cover with fundraising?


James: I am responsible for a Medicare supplement policy with an out-of-pocket cost of $385 per month. Thirty-six months after my transplant date, Medicare will terminate my coverage and I will be fully responsible for all transplant-related medical expenses for the rest of my life. The expensive anti-rejection medications I have to take for my lifetime are out-of-pocket expenses that will cost me hundreds or thousands every month. With that said, there’s no guarantee that I will be able to push myself to return to full time work for another few months now that the transplant has happened, so my income is still not what it was before I switched to part time work. That’s why I continue to fundraise with HelpHOPELive even after the transplant.


Laura, would you recommend living donation to someone else?


Laura: I recommend organ donation to everyone. It’s an important decision, and one that must be understood and offered from a place of pure love. It’s an amazing experience! It wasn’t until after our surgery that I really realized, I saved James’ life. Wow! What a gift God has given me! If I had to do it over, I would. Give life! There is no greater gift.

James Michael McLester HelpHOPELive

Laura and the rest of James’ community came together in support


Follow James’s recovery story at helphopelive.org.

A 77-Year-Old Donates A Kidney To Save His Son

On October 15, 2015, 77-year-old Bill Graham, Sr. became the oldest living kidney donor ever recorded at the University of Maryland Medical Center as he donated a kidney to his son and HelpHOPELive client, Andy. The transplant was a lifesaving gift for Andy, who had been fighting end-stage renal disease since 2013.

Andy is described as a “kind and generous man” by his mother, Mary Lou. He and his family were blindsided two years ago when he was diagnosed with acute renal failure despite exhibiting no symptoms or sign of the diagnosis. The unknown autoimmune disease that deteriorated Andy’s kidneys required him to receive dialysis three days each week.

Andy Graham dialysis HelpHOPELive

Andy received dialysis weekly

Andy became unable to officiate high school football games, a pre-diagnosis passion, and he could no longer maintain his fulltime job as an auto industry manager. Within 2 years, even climbing stairs or walking short distances became a major challenge. Andy needed a miracle –and that’s when his father stepped in.

Andy Graham Bill Graham HelpHOPELive

Andy with his donor Bill and his dog Angel

77-year-old Bill Graham, Sr. offered to donate a kidney to save his son’s life. To become a viable living donor, Bill lost a whopping 53 pounds at the request of Andy’s transplant team. “The doctors were truly amazed at his good health,” said Mary Lou. “He was so happy to be able to give his son the gift of a new life. Surgery was a complete success and the guys are on the road to recovery.”

Andy Bill Graham HelpHOPELive

Bill Sr. and Andy are in good health

In a letter, Mary Lou thanked their generous friends and family members, who helped the transplant take place through their donations. With both donor and recipient now in good health, Andy and his family will still face multiple expenses related to the transplant, including expensive immunosuppressant medications that he will need to take for the rest of his life. Andy and his family continue to fundraise with HelpHOPELive to help offset those uninsured expenses and cover any unanticipated expenses that may arise.

Learn more about Andy and his transplant journey on his HelpHOPELive Campaign Page.