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On Paired Kidney Donation: ‘Good Health is Never Something I Thought I Could Share’

Rebecca Smith

Laurie Hines is the director of the Missouri Kidney Program and a living kidney donor for her partner, Ted.

She spoke at an event hosted by KBIA and Missouri Health Talks at Café Berlin this past winter a little bit about how being involved with a paired kidney transplant has impacted her and her advocacy.

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org

Laurie Hines: So, along the way, as I researched and worked hard to try to figure out who could it be, knowing that I was not even close to being a match for him, I stumbled upon the Paired Kidney Exchange, and realized that I could donate to somebody else in exchange for Ted getting a kidney

And that is, in fact, what happened. We were on the transplant list for two years, and we got a call in January of 2016 to say that there was a person – actually two pairs, two other couples – who were ready to swap kidneys. So, my kidney ended up flying to Minnesota and Ted's kidney came from New York.

So, I look at the Pairs Exchange as a way to save two lives, not one, I saved a woman's life in Minnesota, and obviously, I saved my life partner – the love of my life.

One of the things I've learned is being blessed with good health is never something I thought I could share. I mean, your good health is yours. There's… I guess there are ways to share it in the sense that you can lift up other people by being healthy, but I never thought it was something I can actually literally give away in a way.

The day I went to the hospital, I remember a doctor saying that living donors are the only people that walk into a hospital and don't need to be there. Who undergo surgery and absolutely don't need surgery that day. So, being able to give away a little bit of my good health, which was really a profound lesson for me.

I will say giving an organ, the benefits far, far far outweigh the risks. The surgery was incredibly uneventful for me, the recovery was really uneventful, and in fact, it made me a lot more mindful about my own health.

On the downside, I will say, as I've said before, the system is very complex, it's very difficult to navigate. For, particularly for someone who has a chronic disease, we're often left to self-navigate the emotional, financial and social barriers related to transplant, while struggling to try to maintain some quality of life.

And so, between the two of us, we were trying to climb this huge mountain of how to figure out how to get them a functioning kidney.

The unintended consequences that I never saw coming, that are have really been a blessing are, I learned the value of being a fierce advocate in the healthcare system and I will never stop being a fierce advocate for my family, for myself and for my loved ones.

I also found my voice when it comes to talking about health care, and I'm deeply respectful of healthcare systems and of healthcare providers, but I also know that without a loud and informed and passionate voice, often, nothing good can happen to you in this system. 

Rebecca Smith is an award-winning reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth Desk. Born and raised outside of Rolla, Missouri, she has a passion for diving into often overlooked issues that affect the rural populations of her state – especially stories that broaden people’s perception of “rural” life.
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