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Giving a Piece of Herself
It all started with a Facebook post.
When one of Theresa Peachey’s friends posted about living organ donation in the fall of 2017, she was intrigued by the idea. The post described a method of donation Theresa had never heard of before — non-directive organ donation, which means a living individual donates an organ to an unknown recipient.
“I’ve always been interested in organ donation, but I thought you could only do it two ways: either donate an organ directly to someone close to you while you were alive, or donate your organs to a stranger if you pass away unexpectedly,” says Theresa.
The long-time American Family Insurance employee and mom was definitely interested, but wondered, could she do it? She eventually reached out to the UW Health Transplant Clinic and was excited to begin the process of discovery and testing to see if she could actually be an eligible candidate for organ donation. The process includes providing a detailed medical history and lots of information, along with passing a psychological exam and a series of medical tests.
And in early 2018 — she got the call stating she was approved.
“The UW Health Transplant Clinic made things so easy for me as a potential donor,” says Theresa. “Not only did I get to choose the right time for me to make the donation, I also was reminded frequently that if at any time during the process I decided this wasn’t the right path for me, I could change my mind and there would be no questions asked.”
But Theresa didn’t change her mind. On May 15, 2018, she successfully donated her kidney to a stranger. Unknown at the time, her donation actually started a chain of donations. It turns out the stranger she donated her kidney to already had a family member or friend going through the process of donating a kidney to help them. Since Theresa’s kidney became available so quickly, hers was used. However, the other benefactor decided to continue the donation process and gift their kidney to a different stranger — much like Theresa had done.
But the profound ripple effects of Theresa’s gift didn’t stop there. During the donation process, she was shocked to learn about the Voucher Program at the clinic, which gifts people who donate their organs with a voucher to move a loved one up in priority on the National Donor Registry. She immediately thought of her niece, Willow, who was born with an enlarged kidney and may eventually need a transplant in the future.
“I’m honored to provide her this gift now, as I may not be able to at the time she needs it,” says Theresa.
For others considering living organ donation, Theresa emphasizes how the whole process cost nothing — the recipient’s insurance paid for everything, and she was covered by American Family’s PTO policies. She also praises her clinic for working on her timeline and making the whole process easy. “It’s not like a heart donation where the recipient is on call, instead it’s all scheduled,” explains Theresa. “It only took a week being put into the National Donor Registry to find a match.”
Today, she calls the experience incredibly rewarding and satisfying, and enjoys sharing her story with others on the fence about donating. She also admits there are times she can’t believe she actually went through with it. And in the end, after making a huge impact on at least three peoples’ lives along with all of their loved ones, Theresa shies away from the ‘hero’ title. “I’m just thankful to be healthy,” she says. “All I did is share my spare!