Like Mother, Like Son: Donation Runs in the Family

Some people spend the months leading up to the holiday season making "wish lists" of gifts to give and get. Others undergo months of blood work to give the ultimate gift - the gift of life. Joshua Chambers-Letson recently donated his kidney to a friend in need. But he wasn't the first in his family to do so. Generosity runs in the genes. Eight years ago, Josh's mother, Shadi Letson, donated her kidney to her sister, Sonia.

When Josh found out that his beloved friend and academic mentor, Jose, was in need of a transplant, he immediately began testing to see if he was a match. According to Josh, "watching my mom and aunt experience the kidney transplant process made the decision to donate a no-brainer as soon as I found out that I was a match for Jose."

As people across the country and around the world celebrate different holidays with various traditions this month, the Letsons will celebrate the universal gift of life. Shadi and Josh reflect on how appreciative they are for their health and the health of their kidney recipients during the holiday season. Both mother and son have not needed to make any lifestyle changes since donating their kidneys. In fact, Josh, an assistant professor at Northwestern University, resumed teaching just two weeks after surgery.

Needing a kidney transplant transcends geographic and cultural boundaries, something that particularly resonates with Shadi and Josh, both educators and members of minority groups. Almost 71% of all living donors are white yet minorities are disproportionately affected by kidney disease. For Shadi and Josh, it wasn't enough to only give the gift of life. They have chosen to also educate others about the importance of organ donation to spread the message and help the more than 90,000 men, women and children on the waiting list for a kidney transplant in the U.S.

The holiday season serves as a reminder of how precious life is. Both Shadi and Josh have helped end the wait for individuals needing new kidneys by giving a present that really counts, the gift of life. And this gift is bound to last longer than the latest toy or digital trend.