The Ultimate Gift

“Thanks for coming for supper, Maggie. I love you, Maggie.”
“I love you, too Nana” my precious little granddaughter says to me as she gives me a big kiss. 
You have the power to change lives!I can taste her yogurt from dessert as little hands pat me as far as her arms can reach as she hugs me.  She shuffles out the door in pretty sparkly shoes, a little too big and on the wrong feet, following her big sister who races to the van and her little brother carried out in his car seat who kicks off his blanket as fast as he can.
There is my joy, my reason for just about everything I do each day.  I am truly blessed.

Fifteen years ago I became very sick, I needed a kidney transplant

and while I waited, I was on dialysis.  I was still blessed.  I have a wonderful family who took care of me and helped with all the chores a family needs done.  I regret that my kids had to do so many things that I usually took care of and didn’t have that extra time for themselves.
I had been on dialysis two years, two months and two weeks when I received a phone call early one Monday morning before leaving for work. The gal on the phone said “hi, my name is Vicky, do you want my kidney?” 
Having been disappointed twice before from offers for donation that didn’t work out, I certainly wasn’t going to get my hopes up this time.  Vicky probably thought I didn’t sound very excited!  I listened to her explain that she was supposed to donate her kidney to Stephanie, a fellow dialysis patient, but Stephanie had received a kidney and pancreas (an extra special gift since she was diabetic) over the weekend from a young man who passed away in a motorcycle accident.
Stephanie no longer needed Vicky, did I need Vicky?  Yes!  I took her number and then headed to work until noon when I had to leave for dialysis.  After I arrived at the center and was connected to the machine, I received a phone call from a surgeon at the Univ. of MN hospital asking if I had a cold or fever and how fast could I get to the hospital for some testing.

I could not believe this was happening, or trying to happen at the very least.

I expected to be on the national waiting list for 4 – 4 ½ years before I received a donor (the approximate time for a person with O type blood).  I told the Dr. I could be there as soon as the nurses could set me free, but he explained that I had to finish my treatment and then come to the hospital.  I think I muttered something like “I have to find my husband and a suitcase, see you about 7:00”.
We arrived at 7:00 p.m. and then the fun began – all kinds of xrays and tests and blood work to see if Vicky and I were a match.  The green light came around 2:00 a.m. – surgery was scheduled for 6:00 a.m.   My husband then went home to catch a couple hours of sleep and would bring the kids back with him in the morning.  I got prepped for surgery.
Ironically, I was having surgery in the same hospital my mother passed away in after her kidney transplant failed 37 years prior. 
My mother and I had the same kidney disease.  My mom’s brother was her living donor and unfortunately he developed a problem with his heart during the surgery and they had to stop the transplant.  It was 37 years later now and I was grateful for how medical technology has advanced, along with research on transplant drugs and treatments.  I prayed nothing went wrong for Vicky or myself.
The morning after surgery, Vicky walked into my hospital room and I met my donor for the first time.  I was at a complete loss of words (something that never happens to me) and didn’t know what to say, besides “thank you” over and over.

This wonderful woman gave me a second chance at life

…and her quiet reply was “you’re welcome”.
Even though Vicky couldn’t share her gift with Stephanie as planned, she still wanted to help someone, she still wanted to donate, and since she was all ready to go, she decided she should call me and then convince the transplant team that they should follow up.   Vicky is the reason I am so truly blessed today, her selfless and generous gift is the reason I can say “come back soon to Nana and Grandpa’s, Maggie”.  
Vicky and I are close, though we don’t get together as often as we’d like, she has a big family with lots of grandchildren too to keep her busy.  Vicky knows she is my hero and is on the top of my list when I count my blessings.  I think I’d better call her again and remind her now that I’m writing about her!  I will celebrate 13 years in July since I received my transplant and I am doing very well. 
I still marvel at the gift Vicky has given me, I can’t believe she did that, she did that for me, before she even met me.  For many years I kept wondering how to properly thank her.  Some silly ideas have run through my mind – I should send her on a vacation to Hawaii or someplace wonderful, I should buy her diamonds, I should plant a tree or maybe a forest in her honor, but nothing seemed “enough” and nothing seemed like something Vicky would want.
I’m doing what I think Vicky would want, staying healthy and taking care of her gift which gave me a second chance at life.  I’m also living life with love and gratitude and laughing each day with the most precious grandbabies a Nana could hope for.

 You can radically change a life, too

  • You have the power to change lives!Please consider being an organ donor by checking the box on your drivers license or state ID application or go online and register at   (Please note this is for Minnesota residents, you may need to check the requirements in your state).  Please also visit to sign up to be a donor, if you live in North and South Dakota as well as western Wisconsin.  For Living Donor Referral, pls. call 1-800-24-SHARE.  Be sure you share your decision with your family and friends, make your wishes known that you want to save lives.
  • We all have the power to save lives – up to 60 lives, in fact!  By becoming a donor you can help provide hope, life and healing to 60 people through organ, eye and tissue donation.
  • Currently there are 121,000 men, women and children on the national waiting list.  These people have the same hopes and dreams as you and me.  Closer to home, there are 3,600 people waiting in Minnesota, North and South Dakota and western Wisconsin for a gift of an organ donation.  The organ most needed – 2,754 to be exact, is kidneys.  I used to be part of that number!  Only 220 kidney transplants took place in 2012 (2013 numbers not available to date) that means there is a significant need that is not being met, the numbers get farther and farther apart.
  • Tonight when we finally shut down the computer or close the book, put out the cat and set the timer on the coffee pot, there will be 18 less men, women and children on the waiting list.  They will pass away before receiving their life-saving gift of a transplant.  Their hope and dreams will pass away.  These people are our mothers, fathers, siblings, children and neighbors.  My heart breaks for each family who loses their loved one because the organ they need is not available.
  • Here’s another sad number – 12 – the number of minutes it takes to send a few text messages and respond, the time it takes to go in and order that favorite flavored coffee, the time it takes to make a grilled cheese sandwich and cut it up for two little ones, during that time – every 12 minutes, a new name will be added to the national waiting list.  Please consider becoming an organ/eye/tissue donor.  Share hope, share life.

Thank you for reading my story.  If you are not a donor, I hope you will take a few moments and check out the websites listed and make a commitment to help save lives.  If you are already a donor, I sincerely thank you for your generosity and the hope you provide.
– LouAnn (Dawn & Diana’s mom :)
Life-Source Volunteer | Kidney Recipient – Living Donor
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