Double recipient

Mike has two organ donor heroes to thank for saving his life

The two women standing on either side of a man, smiling. The woman on the left donated her liver, and on the right donated her kidney.
L to R: DeeDee, Mike, Laura

Mike Wisdom is one of the few people in the world who has not just one, but two, organ donor heroes to thank for saving his life.

Back in 2007, Mike first became sick with liver failure. He began seeing Adnan Said, MD, hepatologist at the UW Health Transplant Center in Madison, and he and his wife explored the option of live liver donation. His sister Elizabeth wanted to be his donor but had her own liver problems — she was diagnosed with fatty liver disease. So, her partner DeeDee stepped in.

The transplant took place on July 24, 2008, and while the procedure went well for DeeDee, Mike experienced complications: He had a primary arterial blood clot in his new liver, so his doctors had to remove and flush it to eliminate the blood clot. “It was devastating for me,” says DeeDee. “After going through all that, he finally got his chance at life, and we thought he was going to lose it.”

While Mike eventually made it through the complications, his kidneys temporarily shut down in the process. The kidneys started working again, but they were damaged, and Mike knew it was only a matter of time before he would need a kidney transplant, too. Still, he says, “I managed to keep my kidneys going for 15 years.”

By 2023, Mike was told he needed to move forward with the kidney transplant. Mike’s wife Sara works at UW Organ and Tissue Donation, so her family members know more about organ donation than most people. She knew it could be a long wait, but fortunately, Mike had another family member who was willing to step up to the plate as a living donor—his daughter, Laura Draeving.

Fifteen years ago, Laura knew Mike eventually would need a kidney, and she held out hope that her kidney would be a direct match for him. But it wasn’t, so she decided to pursue the possibility of a paired kidney donation.

In such a donation, there are two people who need a kidney transplant, and each has a living donor that match the other recipient. Person A’s donor gives a kidney to Person B’s recipient, and Person B’s donor gives a kidney to Person A’s recipient. “Instead of saving one life, I could save two,” says Laura.

And for her, the process of donating a kidney was much easier than she thought. In fact, she felt that her two cesarean section births involved more difficult recoveries than kidney donation. “I was actually doing some work on my phone in my hospital bed because I felt so good,” she says.

Laura donated her kidney in July 2023, and Mike received his gift of life three months later, because the timing worked better for the other recipient. That was just fine with Laura and Mike, because since they work together in the ceramics business, it was convenient that they didn’t both have to take off work at the same time.

While Laura’s kidney technically went to a recipient in Pennsylvania, “in my eyes,” she said, “my kidney went to my dad. I did it for him, and he got the kidney he needed.”

Says Mike: “I feel very lucky. Family has always been important to us. We take care of each other, and I’m living proof of that.”