I ♥ your kidney: a love story

Sweetheart kidney donationTravis Spire-Sweet describes his sweetheart, Taesha Benson, as one in a million, his perfect match.

Technically, Taesha is 1 in approximately 30,000: the chances of her being a perfect match for Travis as a live kidney donor. To put this into perspective, Taesha had a 10-times greater chance of being struck by lightning (over her lifetime) than of being a perfect donor match for Travis.

The ultimate gift

On February 5 at The University of Kansas Hospital’s Center for Transplantation, Travis’ perfect match gave him the ultimate gift of one of her kidneys. Transplant surgeons Timothy Schmitt, MD, and Sean Kumer, MD, PhD, made it happen. Caregivers ensured the couple recovered side by side, even helping them pass love notes.

Born with chronic kidney disease, Travis had spent his life managing pain and side effects from his condition. With only one kidney functioning at a fraction of normal, at 29 he’d been on the waiting list for a deceased donor organ for months. Without a transplant, he’d have soon needed dialysis to stay alive.

When Travis met Taesha

But when Taesha, then 32, met Travis in April 2012 through online dating, she knew nothing of his illness. His warmth and generosity won her over. When she later learned of his dire medical condition, she was awed by his amazingly positive outlook on life and admired him for advocating on behalf of other kidney patients while he built his career as an acupuncturist. “Not many people have his integrity, character and optimism,” she said.

About 6,000 living organ donations occur annually in the U.S. Kidney donation is the most common. “Initially you think, ‘How could I do that? I don’t have it in me,’ ” Taesha said. But over time, she was able to face her fears – and follow her heart.

Director of the hospital’s Center for Transplantation, Dr. Schmitt says the team uses living donors for kidney transplant whenever possible because those kidneys last on average three to five years longer than deceased donor kidneys. “We could do 50 percent more transplants if we had more living donors,” he said.

Focus on the future

Postsurgery, they’re eager to focus on their recovery and their future. Thinking about the future is a new concept, Travis admits. “I’ve always focused on making it to the next day. This is the first time I’ve thought about living beyond 45.”

And while Taesha saved Travis’ life, he profoundly changed hers. “He’s provided me a new love of life,” she said.

Learn more about lifesaving organ transplants at The University of Kansas Hospital. Or call