I am honored and humbled to be a part of an amazing chain of kidney donors and recipients. The story behind this chain is compelling and inspiring and I just have to share it with you. Would you please share it with your friends?
All about Amy’s Legacy
This chain of life unfortunately begins with death. The lovely Amy Ladenberger was born with Cystic Fibrosis in Michigan and wasn’t expected to live for 10 years. Beating the odds, she not only lived but helped others with CF, talking many off the ledge, considering suicide. In her 20s Amy had to have a double lung transplant. Unfortunately, despite the transplant, Amy left this world 9 months later, leaving a huge void in her family’s life.
One family member who felt that void at her core was Breelynn Horn, Amy’s cousin. Bree, also in Michigan, went to her doctor and wanted to help someone else to honor the memory of her cousin. Her doctor recommended she donate a kidney because of the incredible need. (22 people die each day while waiting for a transplant.) She agreed but was too young at the time. When she was 20, she passed all the tests and went in to the national database as an altruistic donor. And she waited.
Enter Heather Kantor, at one time the literal poster child for kidney transplants in San Francisco. She was a firefighter for many years and when working the line of a wildfire, her kidneys failed due to exhaustion and dehydration. She received a kidney from her stepmother, but it only lasted five years. So she had to retire early – with incredible support from her fellow firefighters – moved in with her mom, and went on dialysis for three years. She was having difficulties finding a donor, until…
Glenn “Croc” Millar
Glenn was on an adventure vacation in Iceland with a big group of friends. While Glenn didn’t know Heather, many of those friends did know her and talked about her plight often during the trip. Glenn had actually looked into donating a kidney a couple years earlier but it just didn’t work out.
When he returned home to the Bay Area from the trip, Glenn found Heather on Facebook and sent her a message that basically said: “Hi, you don’t know me but I’d like to give you a kidney. Why? Because many of the people I love, love you.”
Glenn passed all the tests, but he was not a match for Heather.
Fortunately they were placed in Paired Donor Exchange, a brilliant program that now allowed Glenn to donate to someone else so Heather could get the kidney she needed.
The national database matched Heather with Bree – in fact, they said it was like they were sisters, the match was that perfect. That transplant happened September 2015.
It wasn’t quite as easy to match Glenn. He didn’t match two other potential recipients. Then along came…
In San Diego Mike was diagnosed January 2014 with IGA Nephropathy, an autoimmune disease that attacks the kidneys. He was given the standard, brutal steroid therapy for 6 months, which only slowed the disease but didn’t reset it like his doctors hoped it would. So it came back with a vengeance and his nephrologist starting uttering the “T” word.
As his kidneys reached failure last spring, he felt what the process of dying was like, and didn’t like it. He started dialysis in March, which helped keep him alive but brought its own list of complications and issues.
Early June he was approved for the transplant list and was speedlisted because so many factors were perfect.
When Mike first brought up the need for a transplant to his friends and family, Emory, was the first to volunteer. In 2003 Mike’s son and Em’s boyfriend at the time deployed with the Marines to Iraq and he and she met in an online family support group. Not long after that she was hanging out with his family most days, going on family trips, and became an honorary Atkinson – a cherished “adopted” daughter. She later moved to northern California, but she and the Atkinsons stayed in touch.
Emory, also from the Bay Area, was SO motivated to donate, she got the mountains of applications and tests done in swift fashion. But when Scripps’ transplant committee evaluated her and Mike, they determined they were not a match. So they put them on the Paired Donor Exchange list. (Read Emory’s awesome blog chronicling her experience as a live donor.)
One of the committee members mentioned Glenn (who was already in Scripps’ system) and sure enough, he was a great match for Mike. Scripps scheduled the transplant for December 29, and also scheduled Emory’s donation the same day. Her kidney would be flown to a recipient in Colorado!
And the chain continued…that Colorado recipient also had a donor who wasn’t a match. That person’s kidney was donated and flown to a recipient in Michigan. And then a kidney went from Michigan to Georgia. There may be even more people part of the chain. (If anyone knows of kidney transplants that happened in those three states that week, please contact Mike.)
That makes so far ten people – five life-giving donors and five blest recipients – part of this chain of life – honored to carry on Amy’s Legacy.
While few people can be a living donor, almost everyone can donate in death and save a lot of lives!