13 Life Lessons

Donate Life photoAs a child, the days seem so long. That feeling changes quickly as we grow older and the word “bored” vanishes from our vocabulary. I have entered the age range where time feels fleeting and the years are flying by. It is hard to fathom that today marks my 13-year kidney transplant anniversary. At 19 years old, I was too young to fully grasp and appreciate how a kidney transplant would change my life. I knew my life was being saved, but I never imagined how much it would transform. These extra years that I have been gifted – with thanks to my living donor, Sally Robertson – have granted me the time to live, love and learn invaluable life lessons. In honor of this monumental day, I wrote the first 13 lessons that came to mind, in no particular order, which I have learned since receiving the gift of life:

1. Never lose hope.
2. Miracles do happen.
3. Our bodies want to heal.
4. Don’t underestimate the power of positivity.
5. Change is good.
6. The ripple effect of selflessness.
7. Unconditional love exists.
8. A day not in the hospital is a great day.
9. Support is needed and it helps; give it and accept it.
10. Caregivers are the unsung heroes, thank you to all.
11. I’m lucky to be alive to see my body aging.
12. Keep life simple, as the little things matter most.
13. How therapeutic it is to find your passion and use it to help others.

Sally & Valen after transplant

Today’s anniversary is special as I am 13 years post-transplant on August 13. After receiving my treasured kidney bean, the 6-month anniversary of my kidney transplant was huge. One year was a great success. Five years was amazing and on the 10-year anniversary, I celebrated the remarkable milestone by doing 10 acts of kindness. I am ecstatic to have reached 13 years and I hope there are many, many more to come.

We can relate to our love for our partners, our parents, children, friends and pets. However, words cannot adequately express the love and appreciation I have for my kidney donor. Thank you, Sally, for affording me the opportunity to mature from a sick young girl into the grateful, strong, passionate woman that I am today. I graciously carry your 53-year-old kidney and strive to take the best care of myself, make the most of each day and use my life as it was intended, to help others. I love you and our precious kidney.

Sally & ValenWhat life lessons have you learned from your PKD and/or transplant?





  1. Petie Johnson

    Your positive attitude will bode you very well. I just celebrated 15 years on August 14th of a kidney/liver transplant due to PKD/PLD. So we both have a Leo re-birth-day!! Bless you always with continued great health. Petie J.

    • Valen Keefer

      Yay! Congratulations on 15 years! That is awesome. Wishing you all the best!

  2. Carl Pedersen

    I think you have a greT outlook and I love your list. As I am looking at it, I’m going ‘yes, uh huh, yep, etc.’. This October I will have my new kidney for 15 years. Sometimes I look in the mirror and say ” you are living with gifted days, what are you going to do today”. Today, I’m playing with my grandson, who is otherwise wouldn’t have been able to meet.

    • Valen Keefer

      I love your positive outlook and how you ask yourself what you are going to do today. I’m glad you loved my list and could relate to it so mucht. 15 years is amazing! So thankful you are doing well and able to play with your grandson. Have fun! 🙂

  3. Teresa Pirkey

    Better start collecting thoughts now … for your centennial!
    Glad you’ve found your passion. You inspire so many. I admire you as I look for my passion. Thanks … again … for your friendship with Kevin.
    Keep on keeping on.

    • Valen Keefer

      Aww, thank you for your positive thoughts and encouragement for my kidney and hopefully its many years to come. It was an honor to know Kevin and to be his friend. Think of you often and hope you are doing well. Big hugs!

  4. Jan

    Awesome post today Love all 13 lessons you listed, love how you talked about time flying by since transplant day…so true; love how you talk about your love for Sally (I love her too, for what she did for you) and how there is no other love like it….I think that is very hard for anyone else to understand except for those of us blessed with this precious gift; I love how you talked about how this gift has helped you to help others; I love your positivity and most importantly……I LOVE YOU

    • Valen Keefer

      This gave me goosebumps. Thank you so much Jan! Your friendship means the world to me. So grateful to have you in my life. I LOVE YOU! 🙂

  5. Tim McCormack

    Congratulations on 13. I’m closing in on 8 and can’t wait for 13 but don’t want to rush it. Love the tee shirt. Where did you get it?

    • Valen Keefer

      Thank you Tim! Congratulations on 8 years and I’m cheering you on for many more. I agree, no need to rush. Enjoy every day! 🙂 I got the t-shirt from a page on Facebook called Transplant TEES clothing. Take care!

  6. Robert

    Hi eigth year of transplant is looming. So lucky I married my wife who gave me two wonderful daughters and a kidney. PKD is a damming disease! Also love the t shirt

    • Valen Keefer

      Your wife rocks! 🙂 Happy to hear you are 8 years out with an awesome wife and two wonderful daughters. Cheers to good health!

  7. dominique

    i believe in all this just yesterday i met an out of state stranger wanting to donate shes extremly healthy and wants to share that..same blood type …im so happy that this may happen dont give up anyone keep the faith
    im on the list 2 yrs and dialysis 1 1/2 yrs

    • Valen Keefer

      That’s incredible! Good luck! I look forward to hearing how this unfolds.


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