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For years, Anne Rapp felt the whispers of living organ donation calling to her.
As a child, she distinctly remembers when a family friend received a liver transplant at University Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. After even more people she knew received transplants and she heard a series of podcasts about the topic, Anne decided she wanted to look into being an altruistic kidney donor—one who doesn’t have an intended recipient. But because her husband was nervous about the idea, she put it on hold.
When her close friend’s nephrologist determined she needed a kidney transplant, Anne revisited the topic and underwent evaluation at a Milwaukee-area hospital. However, she was denied because she has celiac disease and the doctors felt there were too many unknowns with her health. “I felt like I know myself, and I’m managing my disease really well.”
The whispers continued: Anne read a story in “People” magazine about someone who had been rejected as a living donor at one center, but then was accepted at another center. She decided to approach the UW Health Transplant Center, and in June 2022, she was accepted as a living donor.
Anne and her friend decided to participate in a paired kidney exchange, in which Anne would donate her kidney to a stranger who was a good match, and her friend, in turn, would receive her new kidney from a donor who was a better match for her than Anne. Both their coordinators listed them on the registry in October. It didn’t take long for Anne’s kidney to find a home: She was listed at 8 am., and by 2 p.m., a match had been identified. “I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it,” Anne said. “I was pretty much speechless when I got that call.”
Three weeks later, on Nov. 3, 2022, both Anne and her friend underwent their surgeries on the same day. They were even able to visit each other while they were in the hospital. Anne stayed in the hospital three nights. “I was getting very good care,” she said, “so I didn’t feel like I was in a hurry to leave.”
Just two weeks after her surgery, Anne went back to working from home part time. Eight weeks later she was walking her dog again and back to yoga class.
“I was thankful how quickly my recovery phase went,” she said. “It’s been such a positive experience for me. Just talking about it, I have such a warm feeling and a smile on my face.”