Three years ago, Susan wanted to become more physically fit and learn about overall nutrition, health, and wellness, so she began searching for a personal trainer to help her achieve those goals. While exercising with her trainer, Matt, he mentioned that he would be visiting his hometown for a while to see his sister, Shannon, due to her recent health decline. Matt said that Shannon needed a kidney transplant because of her condition, polycystic kidney disease (PKD).
Susan stopped in her tracks and said without hesitation, “I would donate my kidney to your sister if I could.”
“As soon as the words left my mouth, a ‘wave’ of inner knowing came over me. I have never experienced anything like it in my life, but in that moment I received a ‘Life Invitation’ from him,” Susan explained. “It was unlike any other invitation I had ever received. It was not an invitation that you would ever receive in today’s post office box. Moreover, it did not take long to instinctively recognize that the right decision had to be made. I was exhilarated that
I acted and checked the RSVP box.”
Susan reached out to Shannon’s transplant center and spoke to the transplant coordinator. She already knew that her blood type was not a match for Shannon, but based on her research, they could explore the option of a kidney paired donation exchange program. Fortunately, the coordinator told Susan that others already inquired about becoming Shannon’s donor, but they would contact her if the potential donors were not compatible.
Shannon found a compatible kidney donor and received a successful kidney transplant. Since Susan was already through most of the donation process, she realized that she would have donated to a stranger anyway if things worked out with the kidney paired exchange. This solidified her decision to keep moving forward to help someone else who needed a kidney transplant.
At this point, Susan had been regularly exercising 6 days a week, eating healthy, and meditating to become her best self and increase her longevity and quality of life. Yet, she had a feeling that she was doing this not only for herself and her family, but perhaps “something bigger.”
In October 2020, she received a call from UCSF, who cleared her to become a living kidney donor. She was absolutely over the moon! The surgery was scheduled for November 24th, two days before Thanksgiving. After she woke from her surgery, the surgeon happily informed her that there was a 65-year-old gentleman in Arizona who was doing very well with her donated kidney.
“My heart was so full!” Susan stated. She reported that her recovery process went very well immediately post-operation and she was able to get home in time to make gravy for Thanksgiving. Even with little challenges along the way, they were not remotely comparable to the feelings of happiness she felt that the kidney recipient was doing well. She was also able to sign up for the transplant center’s voucher program. Although Shannon may never need another kidney in her lifetime, she will have a voucher with her name on it.
Susan became a living donor during the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused testing to slow down. Even though Susan donated her kidney during the pandemic, she stated that she was not afraid. She knew that the medical facility and team caring for her did everything they could to protect their patients, and took proper precautions from beginning to end.
“I can’t articulate how life-transforming this decision has been for me. I really hope whoever hears my story will delight in taking action in what they believe in,” Susan said. “The choice of giving my kidney was truly the best unseen unwrapped and unseen gift I could have ever given away. This experience of my kidney transplantation was by far an unparalleled event of any like any other adventure in my entire life, but yet one of the most empowering and rewarding gifts that I’ve ever known to give. It’s not just the patient who benefits a better quality of life, it’s the whole family that receives the gift.”
In addition to saving a life, Susan hopes that her story heightens the level of awareness and encourage others to either donate or to inspire and empower others to expand in their own kindness and become contributors in what they believe in.
“I believe we all have something to contribute in life, but we need to have more contributors in this world,” Susan said.
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