The Living Donor Institute began when a small group of transplant recipients and their spouses wanted to streamline their support for education and research. Their charge could not have come at a more critical time.
Kathy and Bob Richards
When Roseann Richards received an email from her Uncle Bob explaining that he needed a kidney, she took time off from work and drove to Charleston to see if she matched. After learning that she was a match, Roseann didn’t hesitate.
A few weeks later, MUSC physicians transplanted one of Roseann’s kidneys to Bob Richards. “When I look at what Roseann did for me, how do you repay someone for that?” Bob said.
He and his wife, Kathy, made a significant gift to MUSC in 2014. They also pledged $250,000 over several years to support transplant education, improved transplant quality and research.
“There are 320 million Americans, and 100,000 people on the transplant waiting list,” Bob said. “You should be able to find 100,000 kidneys out there.”
Kat and Al Phillips
A doctor told Kat Phillips in her mid-20s that her children would drive her to dialysis one day. His prediction came true 25 years later in 2013, when the mother of four found herself hooked up to a machine to clean her blood.
Her two older brothers tested to donate a kidney with no luck, but their baby brother, Dixon Pearce, proved to be the perfect match.
“Besides getting married and having children, this was the best thing I ever did in my life,” Dixon said. “It also was one of the easiest things I’ve ever done. People just don’t realize how easy it is.”
Kat and her husband, Al, support the Living Donor Institute in hopes that more people will consider the same choice as Dixon.
Dan and Julie Allen
As soon as he woke up from his kidney transplant, Dan Allen began asking, “When can I see my wife?” Staff at MUSC encouraged him to be patient, to recover and to let Julie, his wife and his kidney donor, do the same.
Around midnight, when he finally was allowed to walk around, Dan sneaked all the way down the hall to Julie’s room. Julie had prayed for this day, for an operation that would restore her husband, who had become so thin in recent months.
But following the transplant, the Allens faced a new challenge. Dan, a funeral director, lost his job and took hourly work as a caregiver until he found another position within his industry. Now, seven years later, he and Julie hope to help other people considering organ donation, so that money never stands in the way.
“So many people who have this disease have very little,” Julie said. “I think there are people out there who would donate if someone could just help with expenses.”
The patients want to know, 'Is it painful?'
I tell them, 'Not compared to what you're dealing with now.'
We are up against a silent killer in America and that's called organ failure. The only weapon we have is organ donation.
There's a huge opportunity to understand why, in South Carolina and in the black community, there is such a low rate of donation. The good news is this can change.
We need to create more awareness, and if there's any way I can make time to help, I'm going to do it.
As a patient navigator, I share my experience to make the organ donation experience feel less clinical and more personal. Instead of being a consultant, I become a trusted friend."
Kidney Transplant Recipient and Patient Navigator