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Offline Clark

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Selfless Giving: Living Kidney Donors Like Laura Laxton Are Saving Lives

Every 14 minutes, someone in need is added to the kidney transplant list. April is National Donate Life Month, a time to raise awareness about the need for donations. Laura Laxton, a copywriting strategist for Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, donated a kidney in 2021. Outcomes from a living donor are often better for the recipient, and the chance of living donors having any problems with their remaining kidney is only 0.3%.

Kidneys are the most donated organ, and a record 25,000-plus kidneys were donated in 2022. Because people have two kidneys but only need one to survive, they are the most common living organ donation.
Unfortunately, despite the increase in donations, the need still outweighs the supply. According to the National Kidney Foundation, every 14 minutes, someone is added to the kidney transplant list. April is National Donate Life Month. It is essential to raise awareness about what the donation process entails and how it impacts donors’ lives post-donation.
Helping a Family Friend
Laura Laxton decided to donate due to the need of a family friend. The copywriting strategist for Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist began the testing process along with her husband. He was eliminated early on, but she proceeded even after discovering she wasn’t a match for her friend.
Laura found the process fascinating. “There’s so much involved in trying to find the best match,” she explains. Laura spent several mornings at the hospital, undergoing a variety of tests. “If you have one kidney that’s better than other, they leave you with that one,” she says. “They really make the health of the donor their primary consideration.”
The Donation Process
Dr. Colleen Jay, a renal transplant surgeon with Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, performed Laura’s surgery. She explains that the evaluation of who can be a living kidney donor involves a team that considers all aspects of the individual donor’s health. The team includes medical and surgical doctors, a social worker and an independent living donor advocate.
“One of our commitments is if the donor is ever feeling pressured, we help them by saying they’re not eligible,” Jay explains. “We want to protect the donors and ensure they are truly there voluntarily.”
While people in need of a kidney can receive the organ from a deceased person, outcomes from a living donor are often better in terms of the longevity of the recipient and the kidney. For living donors, Jay says the chance of them having any problems in the future with their remaining kidney is only 0.3%.
“Our approach at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist is to work hard to match people with the best organs for them as quickly as possible,” explains Jay. The hospital participates in multiple programs to help facilitate that, including the National Kidney Registry.
The surgery is done laparoscopically and robotically. Because the procedure is minimally invasive, donors typically only spend one night in the hospital. Jay tells most donors to plan to take three to four weeks away from work to recover.
Surgery and Beyond
Laura became part of a chain donation as a match for a woman in Minnesota. “Someone was donating for her, but that person’s kidney was a match somewhere else,” she says. But the night before the surgery, the chain fell apart. Laura was quickly matched again. “My kidney didn’t fly around the country,” she laughs. “It just went down the hall.”
She credits her family’s support with making the process easy. “My kids and husband made it so that I could do this.”
Laura does not know who received her kidney in November 2021, but she knows his surgery went well. As for her recovery and ongoing health, it has been much easier than she imagined.
“It really had zero impact on my quality of life,” says Laura, who adds that she went through a period of feeling guilty for not having donated a kidney earlier. “If more people knew how easy it is, they would be willing to donate.”
Eventually, Laura’s friend found a match. “It is shocking the need for kidneys in this country. I didn’t know how great it was,” she shares. “The more I learned about dialysis and their quality of life, the more I thought, ‘If donation can save someone from going through all that, why wouldn’t I?’’”
Unrelated directed kidney donor in 2003, recipient and I both well.
626 time blood and platelet donor since 1976 and still giving!
Elected to the OPTN/UNOS Boards of Directors & Executive, Kidney Transplantation, and Ad Hoc Public Solicitation of Organ Donors Committees, 2005-2011
Proud grandpa!


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