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I’d do it again without hesitation.

In 2010, I started dating Mike, a fellow high school English teacher.  Most days, we ate lunch together and chatted about fairly light topics.  One day, he looked kind of upset and opened up to me that his mom had been diagnosed with kidney disease and would probably need a transplant.  Without thinking twice, I told him “I’ll do it.  I’ve got two kidneys and probably don’t need both of them.”  He looked a little surprised and reminded me that I’d never met her, and actually didn’t even know him that well.  I told him that didn’t matter.  I was raised to share with those in greater need than me, and this seemed to fit the bill.  We talked a little more about it, but it turned out his mom was doing a little better than they thought and wasn’t in immediate need of a transplant.

In 2011, Mike and I got married.  About a year later, he mentioned to me that his mom was in decline and her doctors were starting to discuss a transplant more seriously.  I told him again that my offer still stood.  In February 2012, we flew from our home in Las Vegas to Chicago for some testing and some discussions with my mother in law’s medical team. I spent hours at the University of Illinois-Chicago Medical Center and was subject to every medical test possible since we had to squeeze it all into one day. To everyone’s surprise, I was a near perfect match.  The doctors coordinated the rest of the pre-surgical testing with my local doctor.

On March 30, 2012, I flew to Chicago to settle in and go to one final medical check before the surgery.  On April 2, I woke up and Mike drove me to the hospital.  Honestly, much of the rest of that week is a blur.  I do know I donated a kidney, because I still have a few scars on my stomach, and doctors have pointed out the “void” to me during subsequent medical tests.

I was 32 when I donated my left kidney.  It has been just over 5 years, and to be honest, my life hasn’t changed much.  I can still do all of the things I did before.  I live in the desert, so I have to be more careful about dehydration, but that’s pretty good advice for anyone.  Aside from that, no big changes.  I work, I travel.  I’ve taken up distance running.  I just had my annual check up and my doctor was impressed with my overall health.

I spent a few weeks recovering — it was a major surgery — but then life resumed as normal.  BUT, my mother-in-law got a new lease on life.  It brings me such joy knowing that I helped to extend her life, and improve her quality of life.  Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

I’d do it again without hesitation.

— Jessica

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Anna Schwinger

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