Living kidney donation

Dave, inspired by friends, donates a kidney

A man standing in front of a scenic overlook
Dave Daniels

It was Christmas 2022 — five and a half months after my July 17 kidney donation at University Hospital. Typically, the Christmas season would have me thinking about family and friends, the past year, and the coming year.

But during Christmas 2022, I was thinking about someone I don’t know, and likely never will. I’m certain that whoever this person is, they would most assuredly be cheering the holiday season with the gift of health and renewed prospects for the future ahead.

My path to donate one of my kidneys was not a journey that can or should be taken lightly. My friend, Joe Conlon, donated one of his kidneys several years ago and I was intrigued. I asked him what his experience was like and how he felt, physically, after the surgery. He told me it was a wonderful experience and that he didn’t regret it for one second.

Then, Joe’s wife, Judy, donated her kidney, too. Joe and Judy are two of the most conscientious and thoughtful people I’ve ever known. If this is something they felt strongly about doing and their outcomes were so good, I thought, I needed to get a little more serious and start a larger conversation with the folks at the UW Health Transplant Center about doing it myself.

I was probably a bit older than the typical donor at age 72, but after all the tests were performed and I finished the interviews with the staff, we reached the collaborative decision that I was a viable candidate both physically and emotionally.

Of course, there are risks — kidney donation is a major surgery, after all. There would be weeks of recovery time after surgery, and for the rest of my life I would be living with only one healthy kidney, instead of the two that had gotten me this far in my life. The final decision was up to me.

On that early July 17, 2022, morning, as I was being prepped for the procedure, my surgeon patted me on the shoulder and asked if I was ready. I recall saying, "Let's do it!"

So now in my new reality, here's what I know for certain: Unless someone asks me about my kidney donation, I don't think about it very much. Four weeks out from surgery, I was pretty much back to my normal activities. Soon I resumed cycling trips, mountain bike rides and skiing and fat tire bike riding in the winter months. And, by the way, the transplant team is here with me, checking in periodically to ensure I’m doing well. In short, life goes on as it had before, and I feel so good!

There is that matter of a certain “someone” out there with a bit of myself pumping inside them, giving them health and vitality for the future. I'm happy for their future, as well as mine.