2016 Transplant and Organ Donation Calendar: Kidney Exchange - Lisa, Michelle, Susan, Tim

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Lisa Moore, Michelle Sullivan, Susan Tillman and Tim BurgessWhen Lisa Moore from Wisconsin read an article about a woman who donated a kidney to help a stranger, she thought "I could do that." She was already a generous volunteer and regular blood donor and was looking for another way to give back. She shared the idea with her husband and her two children.


"My husband was on board right away," says Lisa, "and my children were supportive too." Lisa reached out to UW Hospital and Clinics to learn about becoming a non-directed donor. Her courage began a paired kidney exchange that would connect four people and save two lives.


Michelle Sullivan, who lives in Illinois, was waiting for a kidney transplant. Lupus had caused kidney failure and she was placed on dialysis. Michelle's sister, Susan Tillman, offered to donate a kidney to her sister, but she was not a match. When they heard about the paired kidney exchange program, they wanted to participate.


"Michelle and I are very close," says Susan. "It was very hard to see her struggle. I was afraid we were going to lose her." Susan knew there were other people like Michelle, waiting for a kidney transplant, with loved ones who were also worried about them. "I wanted to help another person, another family, as much as I wanted to help my sister."


Thanks to Lisa's courage and generosity, Michelle received a new kidney and in turn her sister Susan donated a kidney to Tim Burgess, also from Illinois.


Tim had recently retired but was unable to enjoy his retirement as his health and energy level continued to decline. Hypertension had caused Tim's kidney failure and he had been on dialysis for more than four years. "When the nurse told me about the paired kidney exchange," says Tim, "I felt like I won the lottery! I can't thank Lisa and Susan enough. I am so grateful to be part of this chain."


When the four met in August 2015 at UW Hospital and Clinics the room was filled with hope and gratitude. "It's amazing to me that someone who didn't even know me was willing to help me," says Michelle. "It was wonderful to meet Lisa."


When Susan met Tim, her eyes filled with tears. "Someone else gets to smile another day because he's here," she says. "It was beautiful to look into his eyes and see his gratitude." Tim's gratitude was two-fold, for Lisa and for Susan. "They are all heroes to me," he says.


When Lisa met Michelle, Susan and Tim and could see the outcome of the exchange she started, she knew she had made the right decision. "It took courage to reach out, to take a risk and help someone you might never meet, but it just felt right," she says.