Lots of big news in the Emory transplant world as of late. We performed the Southeast’s first hand transplant, our 300th lung transplant, and most of you probably heard about the touching story of Wake Forest University baseball player, Kevin Jordan, and his coach, Tom Walter, who came to Emory to participate in a living donor kidney transplant. This last story, more than any other, has brought a tremendous amount of awareness around the notion of living donor transplants. April is Donate Life Month, and as such, we thought it appropriate to highlight another touching living donor transplant story, this one, between a member of the Emory family, Pamela Lesane, and her sister. We recently interviewed Pamela, who works for Emory Healthcare in Guest Services, about her journey as a living donor.
Morgan: Pamela, thanks so much for helping us promote awareness of living donor transplants. Tell us, where did your journey as an organ donor begin?
Pamela: My sister has suffered with kidney disease ever since she was born. At the time of the transplant she was suffering from both high blood pressure and kidney disease. After I started at Emory, I came into contact with a transplant coordinator who asked me if my sister had ever been evaluated for a transplant. She had not yet been evaluated, and a few weeks later my sister came to Emory and was placed on the waiting list. I asked to be the first one tested as a possible donor candidate. It turned out I was a match and the rest is history.
Morgan: What was the actual donation and transplant experience like for both of you?
Pamela: It was a blessing to finally be able to help my sister after watching her suffer her whole life with kidney disease. My sister often tells me that it’s like her life has started fresh since the transplant. Her recovery time was short, only about 2 weeks, and she was able to notice an improvement in the way she felt within just a couple of days. Overall it was a wonderful experience for the both of us and brought us even closer than we already are.
Morgan: You mentioned you and your sister are closer now, specifically, how has the organ donation and kidney transplant affected your relationship with your sister?
Pamela: While my sister was on dialysis she was never able to travel as she had to come into the hospital three times a week. After the transplant, we were able to reach a new connection as we were able to travel and spend more time together. We have always been close but through the whole transplant experience we grew closer and are now able to spend more time together, which is wonderful.
Morgan: That’s wonderful to hear. Would you serve as her living donor again? Do you have any regrets?
Pamela: If I could go back in time I would do the transplant over and over again. I have absolutely no regrets, I was able to better my sister’s quality of life and we became closer as a result.
Morgan: Do you now encourage other people to consider being a living organ donor? If so, why?
Pamela: I do encourage other people to consider donation because it truly gives one individual the opportunity to provide someone with a second chance and a new lease on life. Especially if that person is a loved one, the satisfaction of being able to help a family member or friend get a fresh and healthy start to life is a wonderful feeling.
Morgan: How has working in health care changed your awareness and comfort levels with organ donation?
Pamela: If I hadn’t started working at Emory, I would never have come into contact with the people who made the transplant possible. Working in the health care field made me feel more at ease with the whole transplant process, because it was my peers who were looking out for both myself and my sister. I was able to listen to the doctor with a high level of comfort and was able to easily move forward with the transplant. That’s part of why sharing this story was so important to me. I realize that not everyone has the opportunity I did to be informed of the possibility of being a living donor. If you know someone in need of a transplant, it’s certainly worth looking into.
Morgan: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about the experience?
Pamela: I would just like to thank the Emory community and specifically the transplant team because they truly changed my sisters life and our relationship.
If you have questions for Pamela, or would like to comment on her tremendous story, please use the comments field below.