Living organ donors give the gift of life. Pittsburgher Justin Reed has given the gift of life – twice. When his father needed a kidney, Justin was evaluated and determined to be a match. He then made the selfless decision to donate one of his kidneys to his father through a living-donor kidney transplant. He later donated a part of his liver to a person he’d never even met.
“The greatest feeling in my life was waking up from surgery and walking over to sit by my father’s side, knowing he was on track to feeling better,” Justin says.
During the living-donor kidney transplant, one of Justin’s healthy kidneys was removed and transplanted into his father to replace his father’s diseased kidneys. Though we are each born with two kidneys, we really need only one properly functioning kidney to live, which makes living-donor kidney transplants a viable, life-saving option.
Off the Organ Donor Waiting List and On with Life
The wait for an organ from a deceased donor can be long. It can take months or years to get to the top of the transplant waiting list. Living donors offer critically ill people the opportunity to receive lifesaving transplants much earlier than they otherwise would. Once the patient has identified a living donor, the patient can have a second chance at life with a healthy organ. That is exactly what happened with Justin and his dad.
And as if donating a kidney weren’t gracious, brave, and both physically and emotionally demanding enough, Justin decided he wanted to make a nearly unheard-of sacrifice by giving the gift of life a second time. Just two years after saving his father’s life, Justin chose to become a living donor to someone on the waiting list for a liver transplant – someone he had never even met.
“People would ask me: Why would you want to give part of your liver to someone you don’t even know?” says Justin. “My answer was always the same: ‘Why not?’ I watched what my dad went through when he needed an organ. I wanted to keep someone else from going through that if I could.”
The process for a living-donor liver transplant is different from the process for a living-donor kidney transplant. Instead of the entire organ being removed, only a portion of the liver is taken out and transplanted into the person with a failing liver. After the surgeries, both the donor’s and recipient’s livers regenerate to full size and function within weeks to months.
Living Donors Give More People a Chance to Live
There are tens of thousands of people on the national transplant waiting list and many will not receive a transplant in time. Living donation gives those on the waiting list another chance to get the lifesaving transplant they need. Through living donation, Justin was not only able to save his dad, but a complete stranger as well. And, as it turns out, the stranger to whom Justin donated a portion of his liver just happened to be his neighbor.