Mercy Health Saint Mary’s Kidney Transplant Center held a celebration on November 6, recognizing those who have given the gift of life: kidney donors. The Living Donor Celebration is held every two years and provides attendees an opportunity to exchange stories of selflessness and gratitude with other kidney donors and recipients.
This year’s event saw the largest attendance as well as the most donor-recipient pairs to date, boasting a crowd of 200 people, including 53 kidney donors and 30 of their recipients. Throughout the night, many exchanged laughter, hugs and tears.
The program included a video of recipients sharing the impact their new kidney has had on their lives, followed by a panel of recipients answering questions about their personal experiences. The program closed with remarks from Val Cobbs of the National Kidney Foundation of West Michigan.
“Donating a kidney is a tremendous act of selflessness and kindness,” said Kelly Summers, manager of clinical services, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s Kidney Transplant Center. “This event is our way of showing gratitude to those people who are so willing to give of themselves to save a life.”
The Mercy Health Saint Mary’s Kidney Transplant Center performs on average 80-100 transplants each year and is the only program for adult kidney transplant serving West Michigan.
Since the program started in 1973, there have been over 2,500 kidney transplants. Of those, fewer than 1,000 have been from living donors. The program has more than 300 candidates currently waiting for a kidney.
A living donor is a person who chooses to donate one of their kidneys, typically to a family member or loved one, but on occasion to a recipient who is not related or known.
The current wait time in Michigan for a deceased donor organ is five to seven years, but with a living donor, the transplant could occur within a few months and can be timed to meet the patient’s needs. There are also some advantages to having a living donor transplant, including better patient outcomes, rather than receiving a transplant from a deceased donor.
Living kidney donors can be anyone who is medically and psychologically healthy, willing to donate, between the ages of 18 to 65 and in excellent health. Specific donor situations are considered on a case-by-case basis, as there are certain medical conditions that may make a donor ineligible. A kidney donor and recipient do not need to be the same race or blood type, but they do have to be compatible blood types.
Click here for more information on becoming a kidney donor.