“Saving someone else’s life is probably the single most important decision one could make,” said Kathryn Eischen, whose sister gave her the gift of life through a living donor kidney transplant 27 years ago.
When Kathryn was in college, she learned she was in kidney failure and had to start dialysis. “I was in shock and disbelief,” she said. But she received a call from her sister, Susan, who said she would be her organ donor. Unfortunately, Susan was only a 50 percent match.
But another sister, Jill, was a 100 percent match. “Two incredible people in my life had made the beautiful and extraordinary decision to donate one of their kidneys,” Kathryn explained. The transplant took place at Loyola University Medical Center in 1986.
“The transition from pre-transplant to post-transplant was life-changing,” Kathryn said. Four months after her surgery, she started her career, and a year later, her donor sister was pregnant. “We’ve all gone on to lead happy and healthy lives,” she said.
Kathryn acknowledged that she was lucky to have two loved ones willing to donate. “Many others don’t have this option, and they lose their fight to stay alive while waiting for an organ,” she said. “But my story has a happy ending, and it’s one I’m eager to share because I hold it near and dear to me every single day of my life.”
Her sisters’ willingness to help inspired Kathryn to “pay it forward” by encouraging others to become organ and tissue donors. Her calling now is to inform others that one organ donor can save up to nine people’s lives and, when tissue donation is involved, that number rises to more than 25 people. “I encourage others to register as lifesaving donors at Gift of Hope and let your wishes be known to your loved ones. If you fear the idea of donation, talk to people like me who have been through it. My story has a happy ending, and it’s one that I’m eager to share because I hold it near and dear to me every single day of my life.”