A Multimedia Tribute to Donation

I’ve enjoyed sharing my story of donating a kidney to my son, Paul, with just about anyone who’ll listen, in most every medium available: in person, of course (IRL, as they say); in print; online; on radio; on TV—and, most recently, the coolest yet: an interactive multimedia wall.

What, you ask, is a multimedia wall? It’s a giant touch screen about the size of a double window, a touching tribute to donors and recipients at University of North Carolina Hospitals in Chapel Hill. That’s where Paul’s transplant (ditto my donation just down the hall) took place more than 13 years ago.

“The Stories of Transplant Care” wall is in the busy lobby of UNC’s Children’s Hospital. On a recent Saturday, UNC Health Care unveiled it to a small crowd of recipients and their families, donors, and professionals from UNC and Carolina Donor Services, which cosponsored it. The program, which was predominantly about deceased donation, was a powerful reminder of how, in death, one person can help several others to live productive lives.

In the audience was an older gentleman who’d had a heart transplant there 32 years ago (yes, you read that right–he may hold the record). In 1987, when he had his transplant, the life expectancy for a heart transplant recipient was about 5 years. Unbelievable!

If you tap “Donor Stories” or “Recipient Stories,” the screen takes you to articles or video interviews with such individuals or their families, sharing their personal experiences. You can also learn about the history of transplants and related topics, including “Information about Organ Donation.”

Among the Donor Stories is the heading Carol O., above a big photo of my husband (Neil), Paul, and me at a Triangle Kidney Walk; it alternates with a similar photo from the previous year’s Walk and a family photo that includes our daughter, Nora, taken in Paris last year. Next to the changing photos is a long story about the donation and transplant.

Seeing our family’s triumphant story and smiling faces on a wall with those memorable stories of donors and recipients was a very moving and humbling experience. I felt honored to be among them.

Living Donor Champion Redux

This week Betsy Crais and I spoke at another terrific Living Donor Champion workshop. I’ve written about the one we did in the spring at UNC Transplant Center plus the National Kidney Foundation’s Big Ask, Big Give in June at Rex Hospital in Raleigh, NC.

Amy Woodard, UNC Transplant Center’s living donor coordinator, leading the Living Donor Champion workshop in September 2019.

It’s funny that I’m starting to feel so comfortable at these valuable events. As I told the group, I used to be intimidated by the very heavy subject of kidney transplant and donation and doubted that I could possibly add to the discussion–until I realized that just sharing my own story and my perspective was valuable. How could I have forgotten how comforting it feels to talk to someone who’s been through the experience for people who are overwhelmed, confused, and no doubt frightened? Now that I have a few years of research in connection with our book on the subject plus submersion in the kidney support community as we expand our advocacy efforts, I feel even more equipped to talk about all this.

We met a family there from Raleigh—the husband was in need of a kidney, and his 20-something daughter had just surprised him with the news that she was testing to be his donor. I could feel their excitement and knew that this step has a huge impact on the entire family. I told them about my website, of course, and urged their daughter to contact me if she has any questions or just wants to talk about it. [If she’s made her way to this post, I hope she knows I meant it!]

Wishing all the attendees good luck on this very special, intense journey!