Participants share their experiences in the UAB Living Donor Navigator Program.
Alesia Leggett’s Story: Champion/Donor
“My husband is a strong but quiet man. He would rather take on burdens himself than burden anyone else. He suffered for years on dialysis and decided to continue until a kidney became available. As a former nurse, I was able to heal the wounds caused by dialysis, but I could not convince him to let me get tested as a donor. He kept saying, ‘If something happened to you, I could not forgive myself.’
The Living Donor Champion Program taught my husband the benefits of living donation. For years, I was willing to donate, and for years he told me no. The Living Donor Navigators relieved his fears and let him understand the process. I got tested., and we found out that I was a perfect match for my husband. Until this program, he was unwilling to even let me apply. This program helps people get to, and through, the living donation process. The navigators were with us through the entire transplant and beyond. My classmates and I became a family. We still encourage each other’s success and motivate each other to keep working.”
Alethea Liptrot’s Story: Champion
“Kidney disease runs deep in my family. My mother and other family members suffered on dialysis for a long time. Next thing I knew, my baby sister had kidney failure. When we got to her day 1 evaluation, we met the Living Donor Navigators. When they told me about the program, I knew we were going to sign up. I wanted to save my sister, and they promised to show me how.
As the outspoken sister, I never had a problem speaking my mind. I knew she was the shy one and that I would be her champion. By the time I got through a couple of sessions, I had asked my sorority sisters, strangers, and the navigators themselves to give my sister a kidney! I was willing to donate myself but did not qualify. Once I learned in class how easy it was to donate, I convinced my brother to apply. He lived in the same house with my sister and was a perfect match! The transplant has been done, and both are doing well.
The Living Donor Champion Program taught me to use my voice and speak out for my sister. I still volunteer with the program, speaking to others who are going through the same struggle. Although my sister received her blessing, I will continue to fight so that others can receive theirs. UAB took care of me and my family, and we are grateful to be part of this program.”
Nathaniel Wallace’s Story: Recipient
“My wife, Annette was my Living Donor Champion. She always insisted that I ask my family members to donate to me, and I always pushed it aside. I was going to work on staying healthy and was willing to wait for a deceased kidney. Through the Living Donor Champion Program, we created our own family. My wife and I offered to let my classmates stay at our home when they came to Birmingham for the class. When my classmates got transplanted, we made sure to congratulate them.
My son and daughter both were willing to donate, and when I asked, they signed up. My son was a match for me, but he had started a new job and lived out of town. Our Living Donor Navigators, Beverly Berry and Daagye Hendricks, worked with the entire staff to schedule a date that met our needs. We got the call, and I got my transplant. The same family made sure to call me with congratulations during that time. My son and I both are doing just fine, and I am grateful to the Living Donor Champion Program for being there for my entire family.”
Jayme Locke, MD: Transplant Surgeon
“Put yourself in a transplant candidate’s shoes. Think about what it would be like if you needed a kidney and you had to go around asking someone to be a living donor on your behalf. Think about the magnitude of that; it can be overwhelming. The Living Donor Navigator Program is designed to help our transplant candidates develop the tools to be able to start those conversations. However, not every transplant candidate feels comfortable even with those tools, so we encourage them to identify what we call a ‘champion’ in their life – an individual who knows the transplant candidate, who may not be able to be a living kidney donor but who can be the transplant candidate’s champion. We can show them how to get their story out there, how to start that conversation, and how to help that transplant candidate identify a potential living donor.”