Iowa woman starts kidney transplant chain at Nebraska Medicine

Posted at 5:38 PM, May 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-25 18:38:55-04

In June 1998, Tonja Downey’s father received a kidney/pancreas transplant.  It gave him his life back; for health reasons, he quit his job and stopped doing many of the activities he enjoyed.

 “When I asked him why he wanted a transplant,” Sue Miller, Accreditation and Quality Coordinator at Nebraska Medicine said, “he stated he just wanted to live, what a legacy his desire to live has created.”

He lived another 19 years after his transplant.  He resumed his active life, and got to meet his grandchildren.  He passed away in May 2017.

Downey donated her kidney to a stranger in November.  An act that started a chain of selflessness involving 14 people.

“It just speaks to the generosity of the human spirit,” Dr. Alan Langnas, Chief of Transplant Surgery said. “And how people just acknowledge each other as humans and are willing to help each other out and just trust the process which I think is extraordinary and I think we are very lucky

A kidney chain is a living donor transplant, where an anonymous donor comes forward to donate a kidney to someone they don’t know.  Then other donors give their kidney to a stranger, so their loved one in need of a transplant, can find a match.

“ I think he would be really proud,” Downey said.  “And he was always so grateful for the gift he received so I think this would be amazing for him to see this too.”

For more information on becoming an organ donor check out the Organ Donor Registry.