How I Gave The Gift of Life: Wendy's Story

by Wendy Weckerly, living donor
 
I donated one of my kidneys to a stranger on Friday, March 2, 2018. Many months of sleepless nights and repeated questions brought me to this day. What it comes down to, really, is I’m healthier than most people. I can live with one kidney and I can save a life. I can help save multiple lives. There is something humbling about knowing I was part of healing. There are no words to describe it.
 
I was meant to do this. My father was sick and on dialysis for many years. His high blood pressure that he ignored destroyed both his kidneys. He was on dialysis and it was painful to watch. Although I begged him, he wouldn’t take my kidney.
 
In the end, he finally relented but I never got tested – his transplant center offered him a cadaver kidney. It wasn’t long before my father was back on dialysis due to complications from his other health conditions. He sadly passed away in 2003.
 
In 2017, I learned that my niece’s husband Kevin needed a second kidney transplant due to IgA Nephropathy and End Stage Renal Failure. (His first kidney was from his college friend.) I was honored to step up as a donor and do this for Kevin in memory of my dad.
 
We were scheduled to do a direct living kidney transplant on December 7, 2017 but due to issues arising in our final tissue match, we were told the direct donor surgery was no longer an option for us. This was a devastating and emotional blow for both of us.
 
In January 2018, I agreed to a paired kidney exchange program where multiple people would be exchanging their kidneys with each other. With a couple of surgery dates scheduled and cancelled and rescheduled, more emotional ups and downs, our day finally came. In the end, ten of us would be giving and receiving kidneys.
 
The surgeries all happened over two days, Wednesday February 28, and Friday, March 2, 2018. Kevin is doing great and so are all others involved from what I understand. I am so thrilled for Kevin, his wife Kendra and their son Caden, my little bud I babysit each week. (They have recently welcomed a new baby boy, Cameron.) We know Kevin’s kidney came in on a redeye from San Francisco, and my recipient was right in Philly with me. My recipient’s wife was also involved in donating her kidney in the exchange. I happily healed at home, while my husband took excellent care of me. Any soreness, aches or pains, were well worth it.
 
Kevin was honored by the National Kidney Foundation with their Hero Award Recipient, for being a dedicated volunteer, raising funds and serving as chair for the NJ Kidney Walk. We are so happy for Kevin and his family.
 
If you take anything away from this, if at all possible, please consider being a kidney donor to a loved one or friend.