Living Donor Wants to Give Back

Four years ago, Jill Dillon became a living kidney donor. The process was emotional, but she believes it was a pivotal moment in her life. Now, she is starting a new organ donation volunteer group in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. to ensure others understand how powerful the gift of life can be.


Jill, an optometrist in Wisconsin Rapids, first considered becoming a living donor when a patient told her he needed a kidney. She offered him her own, and the two underwent testing to see if they were a match. The hospital told them they were, and they were all set for surgery in July 2010 when hospital staff suddenly cancelled. The recipient was not healthy enough for a transplant, they said.


Deflated, Jill began researching other options. While looking at the UW Health Transplant Program website, she noticed the program said it would perform kidney transplants other facilities had turned down. She and her patient sent their records to UW, only to find out that she wasn't a very good match after all; there was a 50 percent chance of rejection.


Ultimately, Jill's patient received a kidney from a deceased donor and underwent surgery at UW Hospital and Clinics. He was doing well, but she was left wondering where she fit into the equation.


As Jill talked with friends and family about possibly becoming an altruistic donor, one of her office staff saw a posting from a Facebook friend, Sara Solinsky, stating that she needed a kidney transplant. The staff member connected the two, and they discovered they were a perfect match. Their surgery was on July 21, 2011 at UW Hospital and Clinics.


"I think it was a God thing," says Jill. "I absolutely feel the entire process was meant to be. That's why I feel so passionate about promoting organ donation."


Following the surgery, she and Sara became involved with the North Central Wisconsin Donate Life group, which planned an annual scavenger hunt. This year, the group wasn't planning that event, so they decided to organize their own group closer to home.


"It's nice when we have people in our local communities who want to step up and lead a group," says Trey Schwab, outreach coordinator for UW Organ and Tissue Donation (UW OTD).


So far, about a dozen people have shown interest in the group, and Jill expects more to join. They will be planning the scavenger hunt to raise awareness and money for Restoring Hope Transplant House and the Donor Education Fund for the UW OTD, but they also want to represent UW OTD at health fairs and other events. "Our main goal is to promote organ donation," says Jill, "and if we can have a ton of fun while we're doing that and raise money, that would be fantastic."


If you are interested in joining the volunteer group, complete the Volunteer Contact Information form on the UW OTD website. You will receive instructions for completing the online education and training session.