Living-Donor Transplants: Living to Give the Gift of Life

By: Andr??a Stanford

While today is the final day of Donate Life Month, a national awareness campaign to educate individuals about organ donation, the UPMC Transplant Services team reminds our readers that registering to become an organ donor is a year-round event.

With tens of thousands of people awaiting an organ transplant, the decision to become a living donor presents an option to impact the quality of life for individuals awaiting a kidney or liver transplant. Essentially, living-donor transplants enable healthy individuals to altruistically donate one of their kidneys or a portion of their liver to someone in need, whether that’s a relative, a friend or a stranger. Though living donation may not be for everyone, most living donors feel that their gift continues to be one of the most positive events in their lives.

Kathy Bost of Pittsburgh and Courtney Bost of Hershey, Pa., are married to two brothers with polycystic kidney disease (PKD), a slowly progressing genetic condition that leads to several life-threatening illnesses. When their husbands were in need of transplants, Kathy and Courtney made the decision to become living donors.

Kathy knew right away that she wanted to help her husband, but her biggest apprehension was that she wouldn’t be a match.

“The coordinators at UPMC make things as easy as possible. The biggest obstacle in living donation is that [the transplant team] wants to make 100 percent sure that they can do this, and that you, as the donor, are going to be medically OK with donation. So, you go through every test known to man. It is nerve-wracking, but it’s all being done for the donor’s benefit. When you get to the final process of donation, you’re very confident this is great for the recipient, but it’s cleared from the donor, too.”

After completing a comprehensive evaluation, Kathy found out that she was a match for her husband. Their living-donor kidney transplant occurred in September 2011.

Because of her positive experience at UPMC, Kathy encouraged Courtney, her sister-in-law, to become a living-kidney donor for her husband. For years, Courtney had watched as her husband’s health deteriorated because of his PKD.  Determined to help, Courtney became  a living-kidney donor for her husband in June 2012.

“People are always looking for the miracles, but what if we are the miracles? We have two kidneys; we can live on one. A person has to go into this because they feel it’s the thing they need to do — no other external factors. I did this because I wanted to give someone else a second chance. You’re truly giving somebody the gift of life,” says Courtney.

To learn more about living-donor transplants, or to register to become an organ donor, visit the UPMC Donate Life page.

Read more from our ‘Donate Life Month’ series: