One Good Transplant Deed Leads to Six Changed Lives

Imagine waking up one morning in good health and deciding out of the goodness of your heart to donate your kidney to someone you didn’t even know – anyone, anywhere. That’s exactly what Jon Pomenville of Anderson, SC, did recently. Little did he know, it would result in the drastic change of the lives of six individuals and their families.

Jon wasn’t looking for credit. In fact he was completely comfortable with remaining anonymous throughout the process. But during a recent visit to Emory University Hospital for a post-surgical follow-up, Jon met many of the individuals whose lives were changed – right there in the transplant clinic waiting room. Jon and four of the other donors and recipients in what is referred to as a paired kidney transplant were coincidentally scheduled for follow-up appointments within a short period of time of one another. It was only a matter of minutes before the patients – recipients and donors – two father and son combinations and Jon, the man who would give to anyone – were hugging, shaking hands, and recounting their lives and experiences. As one person began recounting the experience, eyes and ears began to focus on the tale being told from across a crowded room.

The Emory Transplant Center opened its Paired Donor Kidney Exchange Program in 2009, providing greater hope for patients in need of kidney transplants. A paired exchange donation is a process that allows healthy individuals to donate a kidney to either a friend, loved one, or even altruistically to a stranger, as was the case with Jon, despite incompatible blood matches. In paired donation, a donor and recipient are matched with another incompatible donor and recipient pair and the kidneys are exchanged between the pairs.

Paired donation is another form of living donor transplantation, which means the donated organ may come from a living person such as a friend, spouse or family member. Donated kidneys also come from recently deceased donors. While most kidneys from deceased donors function well, studies have shown that a kidney from a living donor, either a blood relative or an unrelated person, provides the greatest chance for long-term success.

Because of Jon’s donation, a young 7 year-old boy named Zion received a life-saving kidney from an unrelated donor because his dad, Mike, was able to donate. And Gerald Smith of Five Points, AL, received his life-changing kidney transplant because his son, Matt, a recent University of Alabama graduate, donated his kidney – to Zion. And lastly, 20 year-old Edward Hill of Macon, GA a young man with a history of health challenges, would also receive his kidney transplant (from an unknown donor) at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta – completing the six-person cycle.

6 Person Paired Kidney Exchange

The decision Jon made to altruistically donate his kidney to a any person, anywhere set off a chain reaction that has drastically improved and changed lives. As the mother of one kidney recipient put it, “when we received that call a few weeks ago, it truly was a miracle. The donor program at Emory is an incredible thing that will help many people like my son, and I am as thankful as anyone could ever be because of it.”

The donor program at Emory is incredible, but without people like Jon Pomenville, and generous selfless acts of kindness such as his decision to donate his kidney, stories like this would not be possible. For more on this amazing story and the lives touched by Jon’s decision to donate, watch our short video below:

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