Kari Alexander: Living Kidney Donor
Kari Alexander’s daughter used to be in a girl scout troop. As troop leader, Kari oftentimes interacted with parents including Brett, the father of one of the girls. Kari knew that Brett had polycystic kidney disease, but his health wasn’t a regular topic of conversation. They were simply acquaintances whose daughters were friends in the same troop.
Several years later, she saw a Facebook post. His disease had progressed and he was searching for a donor. As soon as Kari saw the post, she felt like she should get tested. “I didn’t think twice,” said Kari. “It seemed like the right thing to do.” Her husband was very supportive and after she found out that she was a match, they told their kids the news. Mom was going to donate a kidney. Their son was a bit too young to fully understand, but her 10-year-old daughter grasped the enormity of it – her Mom was going to save her friend’s dad!
Kari had never had surgery before. She was nervous – especially about the anesthesia, but at the same time felt very confident and at peace about her decision. A meeting with the anesthesiologist calmed her fears and surgery was scheduled.
After surgery, Kari recovered quickly. “I’m a fitness instructor and took some time off of work, but I was back running two or three weeks after surgery. Ever since, my life hasn’t been any different. You forget. Life went back to normal.” Brett also recovered really well and because of Kari’s gift, he never had to go on dialysis.
Three months after the transplant, Kari had a new chance to express her kindness. She and Brett were invited to travel to Chicago to participate in a clinical trial. She provided stem cells for a transplant to Brett which has since allowed him to stop taking two of his anti-rejection drugs. The miracles of science matched with benevolence were once again on display.
For Kari, the most satisfying part of her donation story has been her ability to do something unselfish for someone. “It had such a big impact on his life and everyone in his family.” Kari adds, “the story went viral all over my community. People were bringing me gifts and telling me I was an angel. It was weird, because I didn’t expect the attention.”
Kari also offers advice to others. “If someone is thinking about it, don’t over-read on the Internet. Listen to your doctors and if your family is supportive, it’s a no-brainer.” Kari adds that people that receive this gift don’t need to feel indebted to their donor. “There doesn’t need to be the expectation of a relationship, just acknowledge your donor on the anniversary. Send flowers or a card or whatever!”