Published on February 11, 2021 | Observed every February 14th, National Donor Day is dedicated to spreading awareness and education about organ, eye, and tissue donation. In honor of National Donor Day, we’ll be sharing stories from two kidney donors. Today, Karla Osorno shares her experience with donating a kidney to a friend in need.
PKDF: How did you become involved with the PKD Foundation?
Karla: I became involved with the PKD Foundation a few years ago when my friend shared her story and asked for financial support. She was participating in the annual Walk for PKD. I liked the focus of the organization and cared for my friend, so my husband and I donated.
PKDF: How did you get involved with kidney donation?
Karla: I got involved with kidney donation because of this same friend who was diagnosed with PKD at 31 years old. We met many years ago while golfing together. As I got to know her and she trusted me with her story, I learned about PKD. She would often share her efforts to maintain her health and her activism to help find a cure. Eventually, she told me that she would eventually need a kidney transplant. I was curious.
I believed in living donations and had acted regularly to donate blood and to register as an organ donor upon my death. I asked questions and said that when the time came, I would volunteer to be tested as a possible donor. We both hoped it would be a long time down the road. My friend, Cathy, and her husband had relocated to another city. We were no longer regularly golfing, but we talked often about life and about her health. As her numbers changed, she and her nephrologist determined it was time to apply to be on the donor registry.
PKDF: What was the living donation process like? Did you know your donor recipient?
Karla: My donation was a direct donation to my friend Cathy, who as I mentioned, now lived in a different city than me. Once Cathy was approved to be on the registry, we started the donor evaluation process. The first step was a blood draw to determine compatibility. This draw occurred in my town and the results were sent to the transplant center. We were compatible and scheduled my travel to the center for evaluation. During the three-day evaluation process, the transplant center team was phenomenal. When it was confirmed that I could be a donor, we scheduled the transplant. From the first step to the transplant and even now six months later, the team has treated me with professionalism and kindness.
PKDF: What did you learn from being a kidney donor?
Karla: I learned so much during the process about myself and my community. People came from everywhere to offer prayers, encouraging words, and support. We also were educated about the living donor programs, the need, and the impact volunteers can make. My love for my family, who put aside fear and gave of themselves to support my wishes, blossomed. Awe at the human body, with its bonus kidney, grew by magnitudes. My faith also skyrocketed as I reckoned with the gift of life and the value of community. I still cry with joy that I got to participate. I walked away from the donation with significantly more than I contributed. People say I’m a hero. I disagree. The real heroes are the PKD patients and the countless coordinators, surgeons, and teams who work around the clock to save lives.
PKDF: Do you have any words of encouragement for those considering being a donor?
Karla: I would encourage anyone who is considering living donation to walk forward in faith and courage. We take bigger risks than living donation in our everyday lives. Kidney donation has unquantifiable benefits for both the donor and the recipient. The decision to participate in medical miracles is life-changing for many and one of my best decisions to date. I am proud to be a kidney donor.