Living kidney donation

Amy overcomes obstacles to donate a kidney to a stranger

For Amy Gauthier, the thought of donating her kidney to someone else started as just a vague idea. Several years ago, she saw an article in the newspaper about someone who needed a kidney, but she talked herself out of being tested because she had three kids who needed her.

Amy and Resa smiling with a birthday cake

Late in 2021, a friend reposted a plea for a kidney from a woman named Resa, who wrote that she might have to wait six years for a deceased donor. “I thought, this is it,” Amy said. “Let’s pursue this. I talked to my husband, and he was a little hesitant—but I’m pretty stubborn.”

She sent a message to Resa saying she’d like to help, and Resa sent her the names of three hospitals where Amy could get tested and she met all the criteria for being a kidney donor at UW Health, where her surgery was scheduled for April 2022.

Unfortunately, her kidney had other plans. The week before her surgery, staff members at UW Health cancelled Amy’s donation because she had blood in her urine. Doctors removed a cyst on her kidney, then ordered a biopsy to test it for cancer. “By this time, Resa and I had developed a relationship,” Amy said. “She had been feeling really low. Other people who had been tested were ruled out, and no one else was coming forward to be a kidney donor. I was thinking, ‘Please don’t let this fall through.’”

It didn’t. On July 15, 2022, Amy donated her kidney to Resa, and after two weeks of taking Tylenol and feeling tired and slow, Amy felt, in her words, “magically better.” She felt especially good because she had such support from the team at UW Health. “I can’t say enough about April Schulz, my nurse coordinator,” she said. “She was fantastic. She was there for every bump in the road and held my hand through the entire process.”

Now that she has fully healed, Amy says, she doesn’t feel any different — except that now she has a “soul sister.” The two women go out to eat every couple of months and text frequently. Amy’s kidney is working wonderfully for Resa.

“People make such a big deal about donating an organ,” Amy said. “I’m surprised that more people don’t do it. It took so little on my end to make it happen. I wanted to show my kids that while you can’t change the world, you can certainly change someone’s life.