By Jenny Hoover, living kidney donor

I began working as a nurse in the intensive care unit at a hospital in central Ohio in 1983.  While I enjoyed the field I was in, I wanted a career that would help me make a difference in the world and get more involved with the community, because I was new to the area.  That’s when I met Linda Jones , and she had just started the local organ recovery program.

I joined Lifeline of Ohio in 1985, its first year, as an assistant transplant coordinator.  I loved the work I was doing!  I helped on the clinical side, was involved with hospital partners and facilitated community education all over central and southeastern Ohio.  I knew I had found my place.

After ten years of seeing countless lives touched by donation, the cause affected my own family.  My cousin, Dianne, needed a kidney transplant.

Dianne had developed kidney problems while she was in college.  After having two children, her condition worsened and she was in complete renal failure.  Initially, she didn’t want to put anyone out by asking for a living donor, so she resigned to do dialysis for the rest of her life.  Working with transplant candidates, I knew that she was facing a reduced quality of life and dialysis would dramatically shorten her life expectancy.

After a short time of dialysis, she was tired of being tired.  She called me at work in April of 1996 and asked what she would have to do to join the national transplant waiting list.  I contacted The Ohio State University Medical Center’s transplant program, which happened to be conveniently located downstairs from my office, and asked to be tested as a match.  Dianne didn’t know I had done this until I called to tell her that we were a match, and that I was going to be her donor.

On September 20, 1996, I donated a kidney to Dianne.  It took six weeks for me to recover and return to a normal life.  Dianne had a longer road ahead.   After a few roadblocks in the first year following the transplant, she committed to making the new kidney work and took great care of herself.

Today, 14 years later, she is living a normal life.  Completely off of her steroids, Dianne works for the health department.  As a mother, she has had the chance to see her children grow into their 20s and be there for all of life’s milestones.  I have had no complications from the donation.

We have a bond that’s unique and we are forever united by that kidney.  Our direct connection has impacted the work I do today as Bereavement Services Coordinator at Lifeline of Ohio.  When people ask me what I think about donation I can tell them that it is so important to me that I donated while living and hope to do so after death.

I’ve found my place.  Saving lives through organ and tissue donation is more than just a job or something that has touched my own family – it is my personal mission.