The Maine Transplant Program (MTP) hosted about 60 living kidney donors and their guests at The Portland Country Club on April 4, at its first Living Donor Celebration. The event was a thank you to the everyday heroes who have given loved ones – and total strangers – the gift of life.
The living donor coordinators and surgeons who have worked with donors have been looking for ways to honor donors for some time, as the need for kidneys continues to be great. There are 170 Maine residents waiting for a kidney transplant. The average wait for a kidney in the U.S. is three to five years, and the number of people needing healthy kidneys continues to far outpace the number of deceased donor kidneys available. Kidneys from living donors also last longer than deceased donor kidneys.
“Donors are unique and important people,” said MTP director Ardyce Peters. “I continue to be humbled by these individuals who risk their own life for another person.”
Among those attending was Kristin Salway, who donated her kidney last year to help the son of her co-worker. She said she appreciated the event as a way to connect with others who have shared this experience.
“Being a living donor can be isolating,” Salway said. “I didn’t know anyone who’s donated an organ before. It was wonderful to be able to make a connection to someone who had gone through what I did as a living donor.”
Salway said she is very glad she was able to save a life and has been active in encouraging others to donate their kidneys, too. Her husband, Paul, is hopeful that others will be inspired by her story.
“Donating an organ is more attainable than people realize,” Paul Salway said. “It can seem overwhelming, but the Maine Transplant Program did a great job taking us through every step.”
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) addressed donors during the ceremony. She saw first-hand what a difference donors make when her daughter’s friend, Jessie Hallowell, found herself in need of a kidney this year. Hallowell’s brother, Sam, was able to donate to her.
“Many of us know little about kidney donation, and it’s hard to understand just how major of a life decision it is until you’ve seen it up close,” said Congresswoman Pingree. “Watching the Hallowell family this year has brought the issue close to home for me, and I’ll continue to fight in Congress to pass legislation that will protect donors and recipients. No one who donates a kidney should have their insurance denied or their premiums increased.”
April is Donate Life Month. More than 1200 people registered to be donors thought MTP online last year. To become a donor, you have to meet physical and mental health criteria. To begin the process to register as a living donor, visit mmc.org/living-donation.