We'd like to welcome Chelsey Larson to Donor to Donor as the newest team member!
Doing the right thing.
When I think about college there is only one saying that can perfectly capture my thoughts: What a time to be alive. Growing up people always tell you that college will be the best 4 years of your life. I had no clue how right they would be.
I was a pretty average college student. Sometimes I went to class, sometimes didn’t. Despite my less than stellar attendance, I still managed to get decent grades while simultaneously having an absolute blast. Glory days, some would say. Though these were the glory days for me, an eye-opening experience during my junior year at the University of Minnesota made me realize that things were not so glorious for everyone.
At the beginning of my junior year I wasn’t thinking too much about what life would look like after college. I was living with 6 of my best friends, and we did what normal 21-year-olds do – going out 4 days a week is normal right? When one of my roommates, Abby, decided to go to London for spring semester she had to scramble to find someone to sublease. At the last minute she found a girl on good ol’ Craigslist. We’ve all heard the Craigslist horror stories! Before meeting our new roommate, I thought she would either be 1) my new best friend, 2) a Craigslist killer, or 3) my kidney recipient. Wait, what?
In early January our new roommate Ellen moved in. It wasn’t long before we found out that our new roommate was a very busy college student. Just how busy she was, most people can’t quite fathom. One night one of my roommates read me something Ellen had posted on Facebook that I had not yet seen. I will never forget that moment. It was a moment that changed my life forever.
Ellen had shared that her kidney had failed and she was on dialysis. Three days a week, for four hours at a time, a machine was saving her life. My heart exploded. I knew in that very moment, I would be a match for Ellen and I would give her my kidney. I know that sounds absolutely crazy, especially because the odds of being a match to a complete stranger are so slim, but I just knew. I knew that this Craigslist sub-leaser moved into Abby’s room for this very reason. I knew because of a brave family member.
Two years before I ever met Ellen or even thought about organ donation my amazing Aunt Tina donated her kidney to a stranger from her church. I vividly remember the day that my mom told me Tina was going to do this. My heart sank and I began feeling extremely nervous and fearful for Tina. I had never heard of living kidney donation, and I wrongly assumed it was a very dangerous thing. I watched my aunt have a successful surgery, so inspired by her in every way.
Ellen had been on dialysis for 2 years at this point, starting on the day after her 21st birthday. She had to drop out of school, quit her job, and was basically too sick to leave the house. Meanwhile, I was being a typical 21-year-old, graduating college, moving to Uptown with my girlfriends, going to the cabin whenever I wanted, and doing whatever I wanted. Ellen couldn’t go to a friend’s cabin. If she missed a dialysis appointment, she would miss ever graduating from college, getting married, having a family. Having to go to dialysis is no way to “live”; it is simply a way to avoid dying.
After 3 months of testing that included a survey, a cheek swab, a few blood tests, and a final appointment to see if I was healthy enough to donate, I got the news that I was a perfect match for Ellen. Although I already knew this in my heart, it was one of the happiest days of my life. I immediately called my parents and my best friend to tell them the good news. I had a hard time telling anyone else because I wasn’t sure what their reaction was going to be. Would they be happy for me? Would they think I was nuts? I talked to my aunt, and we both got emotional when she shared that the moment she heard someone from her church needed a lifesaving kidney, she knew it would be her. She later found out she was the only person that got tested for her recipient.
In May 2015, Ellen and I were rolled into surgery with a second chance at life. Like most people, I am not a fan of pain. I mean, paper cuts really hurt. However, I was never scared to go into surgery and that can only be explained by the Grace of God. It was the same Grace that made my heart explode back in 2013. I’ve never been one to lie about or fake my relationship with Him, and to be honest I am really struggling with it at the moment. I’m not exactly sure what He’s trying to do with me right now, and quite frankly I think He may have forgotten about me. But what I do know is that He had a hand in all of this. He brought me into Ellen’s life for a reason. Through the entire process I could feel Him with me and because of that I never once felt scared about surgery.
The surgery went great for both Ellen and I. To that point she had had roughly 28 surgeries in her life so she was pretty much a pro. Ellen has been doing great since the transplant. In fact, her new kidney is working better than the normal! Her family has been nothing but amazing to me, and since we were in rooms next to each other in the hospital, I got plenty of hugs and “Thank Yous”!
Today, my life is completely back to normal, and for that I am grateful. I play sports, I travel, I go out with friends, and I even moved across the country. What makes my life even better is the fact that someone else’s life is back to normal. Ellen can now be a normal 24-year-old, and I can’t help but smile when I think about the fact that she is going back to school to be a nurse.
More than 120,000 people in the United States are currently on the waiting list for a lifesaving organ transplant. On average, 22 people die every day from the lack of available organs. I try to do the right thing when faced with challenges in life. If my aunt had never been so courageous to show me the way, I’m not positive I would be writing this now. I’d like to think so, but let’s be real. I want to be the light for others that my aunt was for me. Having the opportunity to drastically improve another’s life is an opportunity that shouldn’t be ignored. I was an average human that took the opportunity when I was called. I don’t consider myself selfless, courageous, or brave. I consider myself as someone who did the right thing. I used to be very shy when talking about this subject, and quite honestly ignored the topic. Today, the topic usually flows into daily conversations, conversations with my Uber drivers, coworkers, friends, and strangers I will never see again. I have “Donate Life” license plates, and I have a tattoo with an organ donation ribbon on it. I believe that these conversations with these friends and strangers aren’t meaningless, and someday they will meet someone that needs a life-saving transplant. I just hope they will remember our conversation, and think twice about donating. If I can do it, anyone can.
The above article was originally written and posted on 7 Billion Stories and can be found here: 7BillionStories