Recognizing Living Donors
The UW Health Transplant Program welcomed more than 300 people to their Living Donor Ceremony on October 1.
The ceremony is held every other year to honor those who give the gift of life through living kidney and living liver donation. This year, 229 living donors were honored at The Concourse Hotel in Madison, Wisconsin. Josh Mezrich, MD, surgical director for living kidney donation, served as MC, representing the transplant team’s gratitude and entertaining the audience with his delightful sense of humor.
Following refreshments, a fun photo-booth experience and hearing from a few speakers, the living donors were each called to the stage to receive a certificate of appreciation and a medal from Governor Walker.
Karon Sandberg, who donated her kidney to a friend’s husband 16 years ago, spoke to the audience about her original reluctance to share her donation story. It was the first time in years that Karon had talked about her experience.
“After the donation itself had occurred and life got back to normal, it seemed every time it came up or I mentioned it, people couldn't help themselves from praising me, and making a big deal about what a saint I was,” said Karon. She went on to explain “I didn’t feel like a saint, I felt like someone who just did something that made sense. I didn’t do it because I wanted people to think I was great. I did it because it was the right thing to do.”
Karon added that she had grown so uncomfortable with their praise and adulation, that she began to wonder if it seemed like she was bragging.
“I didn’t want anyone to think I was looking for that kind of attention so I stopped talking about it,” says Karon. “Like I said, this is the first time I have ever spoken about it publicly. And guess what? That was the wrong thing to do.”
Karon went on to ask the living donors in the room to embrace that they are living testimonies for how live organ donation is possible, and very doable.
“I am challenging you to step boldly into that role today,” says Karon. “Tell people about why you did it, how to do it, and encourage them to make a difference in saving someone’s life too.”