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Living Kidney and Liver donor

In 2020, I was browsing on Facebook and came across a post from my aunt, Jennifer, stating that she was coming up on four years on the kidney transplant waiting list. Her nephrologist told her that if she didn’t receive a kidney within the next year, she wouldn’t get to watch her only son graduate from high school.

Devastated, I told her to send me the application to see if I could become a donor. After flying back and forth between El Paso, TX and Cary, NC (where I was living at the time) for testing, I was approved and was deemed a perfect match for her.  On June 7, 2021, my Aunt received my left kidney at Las Palmas Medical Center. She was 37 and I was 29. I was up walking the halls that night and went home the next day.

When I say my experience was perfect, it truly was. I’m so blessed because I know many donors who experienced significant pain and discomfort with an extended hospital stay. I started walking five miles a day to keep moving and was back to running at six weeks. At 9 weeks post donation, I ran my first half marathon!. As a competitive marathoner since 2016, I was so excited to see how much stronger I was due to improvements in hydration and fueling.

Fast forward to June 2022, we got to watch her only son graduate from high school on our 1-year kidneyversary. My kidney donation was such an amazing experience because I’ve watched Jennifer live a life she never thought she’d have. She’s eating food she never thought she would eat again (cheese, lol). Her relationship with her husband is better than ever. She even got to watch her son go off to college at Northern Arizona University.

My kidney donation changed my life so much that I donated my eggs at RSMC in San Diego, CA on July 29th, 2022 to a family who has wanted a family for many years. The main reason behind the egg donation is because Jennifer always wanted to have more kids, but kidney disease kept her from that. If I couldn’t help her with that, I wanted to try and help someone who could in honor of those who want nothing more than to have a family.

If there is one thing I can say about organ donation is that it brings you to communities that will forever change your life. In 2021, I discovered a group called Kidney Donor Athletes when I was waiting for my kidney donation. I joined this group in hopes to connect with other donors who’ve lived an athletic lifestyle post donation. Today, I am a Board Member and Marketing Committee Chair with KDA, allowing me to get behind the scenes and help grow the KDA community worldwide. This community also introduced me to kidney donors who were also liver donors. I was intrigued and had such a perfect experience with my kidney donation that I explored living liver donation.

After being rejected at two transplant clinics, I was approved to donate at UPMC in Pittsburgh, PA. On November 9, 2023, an unknown recipient received 25% of my liver. I won’t lie and say it was an easy recovery because it was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. But I will say that my running came back even stronger than after my kidney donation and my liver was almost fully grown back before three months! The human body truly is amazing.

To anyone considering living organ donation, do it. Your life will forever be changed and you will meet the most amazing people. Thank you to my amazing fiancé for putting up with my emotional ups and downs (because you do experience them) during my donations. Thank you to my amazing support community for sending all the love and positive vibes throughout this journey. And thank you to Jennifer for the opportunity to give you Magnolia (my left kidney). I love you so much and I cannot imagine life without you!