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Carolyn-Kidney Recipient

My chronic kidney disease had been progressing over the years.  My journey began with the UK Transplant Center in July of 2013 when I went through a necessary surgical procedure to begin peritoneal kidney dialysis.  This was a tough time for me as I had to make adjustments in my life style.  Mine was a life style of “never sitting still”.  I had retired in January of 2007 as a high school business teacher and a few days later began my first of two terms as Mayor for Coal Run Village, a small city adjoining city of Pikeville.  Helping improve the lives of my students, my constituents in our little city, and doing God’s work in my church was my priority.  In July of 2013, I had to make some changes to that lifestyle.  I began dialysis treatments and passed the evaluation process to be placed on the transplant list. With about a year and half left in my term as Mayor, I began to cut back by spending less time in the office and more time taking care of my health.  I did manage to finish out my term in January of 2015.

My daughter, Sarah, and I started our quest to find a living kidney donor for me.   I come from a large family and thought immediately that I would be able to locate a donor with my matching blood type.  In October of 2013, we sent in recruitment letters to all family members looking for potential donors with blood type B or O.  We soon realized this was going to be a very difficult task.  Several things were working against me, one being that my blood type wasn’t the most common, and some of my immediate family members were dealing with similar or other health issues.

My daughter built a website for me to recruit living donors with my blood type.  During the time we were looking for potential living donors through the letters and website, we were reading more and more about a program called the “kidney paired exchange program.”  I soon contacted Lynne Polley, my kidney transplant coordinator, and she informed me the University of Kentucky Transplant Center was working on implementing the program, but there was a long implementation process and approval would take some time.  While Lynne and others continued working on the kidney paired exchange program, we communicated to all family how the kidney paired exchange worked and ask that anyone who wasn’t my match could still be evaluated and be placed in the paired exchange program on my behalf once UK was approved.

Prayers were answered.  In February of 2014, my sister- in-law, Pat, began her journey to become a living kidney donor.  After several months of going through the evaluation process, she was cleared to be a living kidney donor.  Prayers answered again.  Almost a year later in January of 2015, Pat and I received the message we were waiting for from Lynne and Ashleigh at the transplant center.  An eight member team was organized for a kidney paired exchange transplant procedure to take place February 28, 2015.  Prayers answered again.    On that day, history was made at the University of Kentucky Hospital; a first for the hospital.  An eight member chain of donors and recipients from different parts of Kentucky, and one other state, came together to give and receive the gift of life.  I was blessed to be a recipient because of my sister-in-law, a perfect stranger who would be my living kidney donor, and the Kidney Paired Exchange Program.

While many are encouraged to join the registry at their local Circuit Clerk’s office, I want to also advocate for the KPEP.  If it were not for this program, I would still be on dialysis waiting for a transplant.  The KPEP is a way for healthy living kidney donors who are incompatible matches for their loved one or friend to become a donor for a stranger in exchange for their loved one or friend to receive a kidney from a compatible match.  Thousands of additional kidney transplants can be performed through this type of program.  Many people can get their lives back sooner rather than staying on dialysis and waiting years for a kidney organ.

On June 3, 2017, I will celebrate my new kidney’s 2nd year anniversary. I will be forever grateful to my sister-in-law, Pat, who volunteered to give one of her kidneys to a perfect stranger from another state so that I could have the opportunity to enjoy future grandchildren.  We are both retired school teachers, and she is already enjoying four grandchildren.  Thank God, my first granddaughter arrived on December 18, 2016.  What a blessing!

Special thanks to my living kidney donor, who gave one of her kidneys to me (a perfect stranger) in exchange for her husband to recieve kidney, I can never say thank you enough.  Isn’t this a wonderful thing?  My prayer is that more and more kidney paired exchange teams will be formed to save more and more lives.

If your heart is telling you that you would like to help someone in need of a kidney, you can do it now.  Contact the University of Kentucky for more information about the KPE Program.  Giving life to someone else is the greatest gift of generosity, compassion, courage, and love that one could ever give.  But remember, we have to thank our Heavenly Father above where all good and perfect gifts come and the ultimate gift is the gift of eternal life.