Living Kidney Donation

These individuals gave of themselves to make a dramatic difference for others. Learn more about living kidney donation to discover whether making such a gift could be right for you or someone you love.

What's Their Why?

Living kidney donors describe motives behind gifts of life

Libby Frashier gave to a teacher in her church community.

Shekinah Bailey gave to the husband of a professional acquaintance.

Martin Gonzales gave to his mother.

The situations differed, but their motives were essentially the same. Each felt called to offer a kidney to a fellow human in need. Explore their stories and learn more about living kidney donation. The program offers the potential to improve quality of life for tens of thousands and make a far greater impact than deceased donor organs alone possibly can.

Shekinah Bailey 

Shekinah Bailey

Libby Frashier 

Libby Frashier

Martin Gonzalez 

Martin Gonzales

Shekinah BaileyShekinah

Shekinah Bailey is an army veteran. He dedicated 8 years of his life to military service. Today, he works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, developing contracts and grants for telemedicine and distance learning initiatives.

In mid 2016, Shekinah noticed a lawyer he occasionally worked with began posting Facebook messages about her husband's kidney disease. He needed a transplant, but she wasn't a match. She hoped sharing their story might help the couple identify a paired donation opportunity.

Shekinah was struck by their burden. The husband spent more than 10 hours a day connected to a dialysis machine. He couldn't work. They couldn't travel.

"The story was just eating at me," Shekinah said. "It occurred to me that this gentleman had less of a battery life than my iPhone. He had no freedom. I realized I was in a position to give him something I didn't need at no cost to me."

He remembered the pledge he'd made as a soldier.

"I lived with the willingness to give my life for freedom," he said. "Here, all I had to give was my kidney. I had taken an oath to serve, and I saw this as another path to service."

Shekinah also gave thought to the cumulative costs of managing kidney disease. More than 100,000 U.S. patients are on the transplant waiting list, but only about 20,000 donor kidneys become available each year. The cost to care for patients as they wait exceeds $30 billion.

"That's 1% of the national GDP," Shekinah said. "If we could get 100,000 people off the transplant waiting list, we could wipe out a huge cost. We, the public, can fix this. We can take control and make an impact."

In January 2017, Shekinah's kidney was removed and given to the man in need. He said the surgery was very manageable and spoke highly of his care team at The University of Kansas Health System.

"I was so impressed with my entire care team," Shekinah said. "Everyone was so supportive, caring and giving."

Shekinah has no regrets and wishes he could give more.

"My own life is forever changed," he said. "I was able to make a positive difference and immediately see the impact. There is no greater investment than in other people. And I would rather give my life to do the right thing than survive doing the wrong thing."

Libby FrashierLibby

Libby Frashier works as the office manager of her church.

Her husband had chronic kidney disease. He spent a year on peritoneal dialysis followed by 3 years on hemodialysis. In February 2016, on the kidney transplant waiting list and visiting his doctor for a follow-up appointment, he was asked whether he had any family who might consider living kidney donation.

"He said immediately, 'I would never ask anyone to do that,'" Libby said. "I asked him if he would accept if someone offered, and when he said he would, I turned straight to the social worker and said, 'I want to be tested.'"

Libby was thoroughly evaluated and proved to be a match. But before the couple was quite ready for surgery, a well-matched kidney became available from a deceased donor. Libby's husband received that kidney, and his health improved almost immediately.

"Then I did some soul searching," Libby said. She knew the toll 4 years of dialysis had taken on her husband and on their livelihood. She had been prepared to donate a kidney and decided she still wanted to. "I felt that if I could help someone live a better life, I needed to do it."

Libby's husband was surprised, but supportive. Once he was confirmed to be doing well following his own transplant, Libby called her new intended recipient – a woman in her church community who Libby knew lived with kidney disease – and said, "If you are willing, I would like to be tested to see if I could be a match for you." The woman, just 40 years old and a fourth-grade teacher, was surprised and beyond grateful.

Libby was a match, and the process unfolded easily. The women's surgeries were both very smooth. Libby said she was surprised by how exhausted she was, but she experienced very little pain. Her care team at The University of Kansas Health System called her a rock star, and she was discharged a day earlier than expected.

Libby and the recipient of her kidney have become very close friends. Libby has no regrets.

"If you are at all tempted to help someone in this way, try it," she said. "It's an opportunity to change someone's life. If I had another kidney to spare, I would do it again."

Martin GonzalesMartin

His mother's kidney disease had both emotional and practical impacts on Martin Gonzales.

"She was on dialysis and had to go in every other day," Martin said. "It was really tough to see her living with so many restrictions and limitations. She also doesn't drive, so it was challenging to organize rides and expensive to pay for cabs."

Hoping to give his mother a better quality of life, Martin was evaluated at The University of Kansas Health System to see if he could become his mother's living donor.

"The staff was so good, so informative and so helpful," he said. "They answered questions I hadn't even thought to ask yet. I can't imagine a better experience. I came to really look forward to being able to do this for my mom."

Martin's employer was supportive, as were his wife and two children.

"My wife understood," he said. "She told me she would do the same thing if her mom needed her. And my kids said, 'Anything to help Grandma.'"

Living life with just one kidney hasn't had a negative impact on Martin. In fact, it's been positive, increasing his awareness of healthy living and healthy choices.

"I am less careless now," he said. "I don't drink energy drinks. I'm more aware, more conscious of my health. It's really just been a matter of making the choices I should make anyway."

With her new healthy kidney, Martin's mother enjoys many new freedoms. Martin and his family recently took her on vacation to Cancun, something she would not have been able to do had she not received a kidney transplant.

"It feels really good to help like this," Martin said. "There is a huge improvement in her quality of life that makes it all worth it. I'm so glad I could do this for her, and I would do it again in a heartbeat."