Illinois Donor Diaries Revisited – Shelly Pfaff

As we approach the 40th chapter of Illinois Donor Diaries, we’re going to take a look back and check-in with writers of previous entries. Almost two years ago, Shelly shared her story. In this entry, Shelly again reflects on her decision to be a donor and her husband’s experience with dialysis and the wait for a kidney transplant.


To me, being an organ donor isn’t a choice. Being an organ donor is a gift I can give when I can’t give anything else. When I met my husband he was on dialysis, for the second time in his life. He suffered kidney failure when he was 29. He was too young to be dealing with a lifetime of illness. He was on dialysis for 3 years when he received the gift of life from a donor and received a transplant. That transplant lasted for 5 years until his body rejected it and he found himself being kept alive again by dialysis. I met him during this round of dialysis. He and I endured this lifestyle for 4 years before we received the call that there was another kidney for him.

The first call from the transplant coordinator resulted in a definite match, but there were a few other people ahead of him on the list that also matched. We waited again for the next phone call to come in. About a month or so later it did. As we were waiting to hear if the kidney was a match or not, we packed our bags and were ready to go. Finally, after a grueling 8 hours, we got the phone call. Again, good and bad news. It was a match and would have been his kidney, but the donor family had some disagreements and decided at the last minute NOT to donate the organs. After many tears shed, he went back to dialysis again the next day. We would just have to wait until there was another available kidney.

September 22, 2004 my husband finally received the life saving transplant that would get him off of dialysis once again. After living through this experience of seeing how important organ donors are, seeing someone I love so much having to deal with dialysis, diets, and fluid restrictions like he did, I do not view being an organ donor as a choice. It is something I have to do. I am grateful that the State of Illinois has first person consent registry so nobody has to go through the same disappointing heartache that we did, knowing there was an available organ for my husband just to have the family go against the donors wishes. My husband still lives with some limitations, but considering his life now compared to being on dialysis, this is what life is all about. I see color in his skin again and a smile on his face. I could never be more grateful to the person that chose to save other people’s lives when his own couldn’t be.

Shelly Pfaff
Morris, IL

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