Called to Action

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By LIZ LOBDELL

For many people the year 2020 might be something they would like to
forget, but for me, it was the year of my donation story!
Over the years I had seen stories of families looking for donors and thought, “Maybe someday”. Then a friend of mine had kidney cancer. She was an amazing person with a passion statement of “Live Life to the Fullest”. So when a college friend had both kidneys removed, I knew I was called to take action.

My donor journey started on Feb. 26, 2020, when I reached out to the transplant center and ended with transplant surgery on Dec. 2. It felt like the longest nine months with several hiccups along the way. The first setback was COVID because the center closed down. But the staff got creative and a lot of the meetings were held virtually or by phone.

Living four hours away I was grateful for this option. My two days of testing became one because of this as well. I found out that I was a perfect match, but the team decided a larger kidney would be ideal for my friend, so we moved to paired donation.

That’s when the second hiccup came. I live in the Allegheny National Forest, so we don’t have much around us. Getting my blood to the National Kidney Registry within 48 hours of it being drawn became our next setback. It required another two-week wait for a trip to Harrisburg to guarantee that it would make it to California on time. Finally, on Sept. 10 we were active.

Our third and final holdup was finding an actual match for my friend. My kidney was so good for him that those strict criteria and just looking for a bigger kidney seemed like a needle in a haystack. For the first month, we had no potential matches. Finally, within 2 weeks we had 3 potentials. The first two did not pass the initial match screening. At the beginning of November, however, we were both paired and surgery was set.

I tell you all of this because it’s not easy having patience. I tried not to constantly call my nurse coordinator with updates, but when I did, she always had news that she had sometimes received minutes before calling me back. She seemed to think I had this weird superpower, but I know it was something far greater.

If I could, I would do it all over again. You don’t have to know someone directly needing a kidney. If you feel like donating there is a way to do it as a non-direct donor,

If you are considering donation or are in the process, find peace and patience through all of it, and you can overcome anything else!!!

Editor’s note: Jan. 8 is PA Donor Day. For more information about organ donation, visit the PA Donor Day website.