“It's a Christian principle: if you have two coats, give one to a friend. Well, I had two kidneys....” Pastor Becca Krogstad said last week....
"My kidney lives in Montevideo now."
Now there's a statement not many people who don't live in Montevideo can say. Becca Krogstad is one of the few who can.
Krogstad, pastor of St. Matthews Lutheran Church of Evan and Bethany Lutheran Church near Gilfillan, got the idea of donating one of her kidneys from a friend with a very personal interest in the matter.
"I did it for Glenna Glimpse of Franklin," said Krogstad last week. "Her husband Ed is pastor of St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Franklin, and he and I taught confirmation classes together.
"I became aware that Glenna was needing a kidney transplant. She needed a donor, so I was brought to the donor chain party.
"It's a Christian principle: if you have two coats, give one to a friend. Well, I had two kidneys...."
Krogstad heard about a new donor match program offered through the Mayo Clinic. In it, teams of six — three kidney donors and three recipients — go through the process of a kidney transplant together to get through the experience as a team.
For Krogstad, the process began in May of 2011.
"You go through several months of blood tests to see how your kidney functions," she said. "If you pass that, then you go to Mayo Clinic and they go over you with a fine-toothed comb to make sure you're healthy."
Krogstad found out she wasn't a suitable donor for Glimpse, but a suitable recipient was found in Montevideo: Shannon Homan of Montevideo.
Shannon's husband, Deron, volunteered to become part of the donor chain himself, and donate one of his kidneys to a stranger.
The six members of the chain met for education and mutual encouragement.
"I made sure to stay away from Google and all the horror stories," Krogstad laughed.
Other than for gas and meals, Krogstad didn't pay a cent for the experience.
"Glenna's insurance paid up until the day of the surgery, then Shannon's paid after that."
"The night before, all six of us — three donors and three recipients — went out to dinner with our spouses," Krogstad said.
Finally, on May 9, 2012, almost a year after beginning the tests, Krogstad was prepped for surgery.
Using the "donor chain" concept, the three kidney donors were wheeled into the surgery rooms simultaneously.
"The donors were in three rooms on the same floor," Krogstad said. "I wasn't nervous. When I was wheeled in, I was just excited."
Meanwhile, the three recipients were all prepped and waiting nearby, waiting to be moved into the same rooms after the kidneys were removed.
Only the kidneys and the doctors stayed in the room throughout the whole procedure.
"After they removed my kidney, they did a biopsy to make sure it was healthy, then put it in a cooler," Krogstad said. "Shannon asked to see the kidney before they put it in, but they wouldn't let her — it was already in the cooler."
After the donors were wheeled out and the rooms were cleaned, the three recipients were wheeled in simultaneously for their procedures.
Total time for all three kidney transplants: about 10 hours.
Then it was time for the donors to begin the recovery process, which went ridiculously fast by Krogstad's expectations.
"Shannon's husband, Deron, also donated a kidney, and he walked into my room to say hi later that same night," Krogstad said. "We could have been released from the hospital the day after the surgery because the pain wasn't really that bad.
"Donating a kidney is a very simple process now," she said. "They used to have to cut you open from here to here (she mimes a cut going around her from belly button to spine), but now they only leave a scar a few inches long."
"They told me to be prepared to take off work for three weeks, but I was back nine days later — my job is mostly sitting and talking anyway," Krogstad said.
"People were very, very generous while I was recovering, and brought meals for my family (husband, daughter, and son).
"My two children now have the goal of donating one of their kidneys," Krogstad said. "I tell them they have to make better choices when they eat now — they have to stay healthy if they want to donate a kidney someday."
Donating a kidney has barely affected Krogstad's life since; she ran two 5k runs later the same summer.
The six members of Krogstad's donor chain still stay and touch, and are planning their first reunion in June.
"I'd really recommend donating a kidney if you can," Krogstad said. "It's an easy way to save a life."