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Extend Yourself

My mother died twice in August 2005-- once on her 75th birthday at a crowded restaurant, surrounded by her closest family members-- and finally, the next day at a hospital. Eight months later, I began to come out of the fog of grief and depression to find a new purpose for my life.

Like many of my generation, I had lived only for myself-- traveling, acquiring possessions, rising to a position of importance and reaping financial rewards. I was "charitable" and "volunteered" for various causes, but really didn't give of myself.

In the spring after mom's death, I found myself waking in the middle of the night with one persistent thought. I felt compelled to offer myself as a living kidney donor. My husband Robb had received the gift of life through a kidney/pancreas transplant from a deceased donor in 1999, so I was familiar with the tremendous need for donors and knew several people who were waiting for a lifesaving transplant. I decided to offer myself to be matched with the most compatible person on the waiting list at my local transplant center.

I was paired with a 71 year-old grandmother from New Jersey who had survived for six years on peritoneal dialysis. At her 70th birthday, her family threw a big party as they did not expect her to live much longer. Dee has become my very good friend and confidant. Almost two years after our surgeries, I was privileged to celebrate her 50th wedding anniversary with her husband, their five children and their extended family.

In donating my kidney, I extended myself in a way far beyond what I ever believed was possible. I did so in honor of my mother who sacrificed so much for me and my sisters, and in memory of my husband's donor who extended her life through him.

I encourage all who enjoy the gift of good health to share with others, either as a living donor or by designating organ donation upon death. By extending yourself through organ donation, you will live on through others in a miraculous way and give comfort to your loved ones.

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