Living Kidney Donation: Jim's Story
Jim Brien received a donor kidney from his brother, Jerry. Jerry recounts the experience in his own words below.
The Miracle of 1982
On June 20, 1982, I was able to provide a miracle for my brother, Jim.
Jim had a kidney disease that would soon drive him to dialysis and a future kidney transplant. The doctors suggested that family members be tested to see if a match could be found. My other two brothers and I were tested, with my kidney being the best match.
I was asked would I do this for my brother? Without hesitation I said yes, even though there would be risks with a major surgery.
The transplant team at UW Hospital performed the transplant. As I came out of recovery the doctor told me the words that I wanted to hear. The transplant was successful and the kidney began to function immediately.
The miracle of this was that my brother could now live a healthy life. He was able to have children, which wasn't going to happen without a transplant. Both girls are now out of college and working in their professions.
The miracle continued as Jim was able to continue his work with the DNR in fire protection. Jim could now resume his love of skiing. He later developed an interest in running and biking. He has competed in several US and International Transplant Games. In 2008 he won his first gold medal in a walking division. That Christmas he presented me with his gold medal.
While not everyone can be a living donor as I was, all can consider giving a gift of life. There are currently more than 105,000 people on the national organ transplant wait list. Three-thousand people are added to the wait list every month, and 18 people who die each day awaiting a lifesaving gift.
Start by talking to your immediate family or legal next of kin of your wishes to donate your organs. This is important so that when the time comes that a decision needs to be made, it can be done with a greater ease. In Wisconsin you can legally consent to donating by signing the Anatomical Gift Statement on the back of your drivers license or state-issued ID card. Place an orange dot on the front of the license or ID.
You can also indicate your support through a living will or health care POA documents. One donor has the potential to save up to eight lives, give sight to two people, and enhance the lives of up to 40 or more people. Jim's miracle still continues as we approach the 28th anniversary of the transplant. Please consider being a miracle for others.
If you want to experience a truly heartwarming experience, look for the US Transplant Games in Madison in the summer of 2010. You can hear and see the stories of miracles from all over the United States.
From UW Health Transplant: The new online Wisconsin Donor Registry opens on March 29, 2010. Please go to the Donate Life Wisconsin/Donor Registry to register as a donor.