Transplant recipient’s daughter sets off a chain that saves six lives
Would you save a life if you could?
Laurie Lee became a living kidney donor in 2016, setting off a chain of donations that saved six people waiting for transplants. From Laurie’s perspective, it was a beautiful way to honor the organ donor who saved her father’s life.
“I just feel so grateful to them that, that they gave this gift to me to be able to have my dad around into my adult life,” Laurie said.
When a spot on his liver turned into fast-growing cancer, Laurie’s father Dan Dickinson was added to the transplant list. That year, two transplant opportunities fell through, but the third one was an excellent match. Dan’s liver transplant surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital was a success, and his family has enjoyed 11 more years together.
Laurie, Dan and their family had the benefit of guidance and support from another transplant recipient throughout the difficult process of waiting and preparing for transplant. They felt strongly that many people on the transplant waiting list would benefit from more peer support before and after organ transplants, so they partnered with Northwestern to establish Transplant Village for organ recipients and their families. “Villagers” gather regularly to share stories, exchange information and support with one another during a stressful time.
Feeling like she wanted to do even more, Laurie considered becoming a living donor. She wanted to repay the gift that her family was given by giving life to someone else. If she could donate a kidney, she knew it would help someone who was in desperate need, so she started the process of donation. In the end, Laurie’s non-directed living kidney donation to a stranger started off a six-person chain of transplants.
“I feel that keeping the gift going is something that if you can do it, you should. I felt like it was a beautiful way to thank our donor family, even though they have no idea who we are.”
After her own donation experience and listening to the stories told at Transplant Village gatherings, Laurie was inspired to share organ donor and recipient experiences more broadly and to publicly promote organ donation. She believes that first person storytelling helps people connect with each other and understand that they are not alone. To further her advocacy, Laurie is creating a documentary featuring other non-directed living donors. The stories of human experience told in the documentary, she hopes, will help encourage more life-saving kidney donation.
Donor Diaries is Laurie’s podcast, which works to dispel myths that prevent people from registering to become donors and promote stories of living donation. She sees it as another way to bring the conversation about living donation to the forefront and put information in the hands of those who might not seek it out.
“We need to look at both: how can we get more people to become donors when they die, but also how can we get more people to feel compelled, to want to donate when they’re alive? Because only by addressing both of those things, are we ever going to shorten or hopefully eliminate the transplant wait list.”
Listen to Laurie’s conversation with host Marion Shuck on Let’s Talk Hope at www.letstalkhopepodcast.com, or wherever you find podcasts
Learn more about Laurie and being a kidney donor from Team Share a Spare.
Most important: Register your decision today to become an organ, eye and tissue donor. Share your decision to donate life with your family and friends.