The ‘Seeker’ Gives Through a Living Kidney Donation

Matthew Taylor writes about “living an authentic life in a world of artifice” in his blog, “The Seeker.” This week, he posted a frank and engaging piece about donating one of his kidneys to his wife, who suffered from polycystic kidney disease.  Here’s an excerpt:

“After some soul searching, I decided to give her one of mine. It was not an easy decision to make since there were many factors to consider, but I am at peace with it now. In fact, I’ve come to appreciate some things about a kidney transplant that I never would have thought of before.”

Taylor, a writer who lives in Rockville, Md., gave the University of Maryland Medical Center, where his donation and his wife’s transplant were performed, permission to direct readers to his post,  “25 Ways to Appreciate a Kidney Transplant.”

The University of Maryland Medical Center is home to the second-largest kidney transplant program in the country. The surgeons involved in Taylor’s donation and his wife’s transplant were Michael Phelan, MD; David Leeser, MD; and Stephen Bartlett, MD.

UMMC Kidney Transplant Team Hangs on for Dear Life

Contributed by Michelle Klein
Pre-Transplant Coordinator, UMMC Division of Transplantation

Scared. Panicked. Frightful.

What am I doing?

These were some of the feelings I was having in the final moments before I rappelled 32 stories from the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel on Saturday, June 9, 2012.  I am scared of roller coasters and water slides. I won’t even ride Space Mountain at Disney World, yet here I was for the second year, strapped into a harness, about to dangle from 32 stories high to benefit Rappel for Kidney Health, a fundraising event hosted by the National Kidney Foundation of Maryland.

Yet as the rappel volunteers lowered me off the roof, a sense of calm came over me. Instead of being scared, all I could think about was how much my jump, along with the rest of the rappellers, was giving someone else a shot at a new life.

I thought about how fearful and scared some of my patients are when facing surgery to receive a transplanted organ or how they feel when they find out for the first time that their kidney failed without warning. I thought about how many trials and tribulations my patients go through even before they reach transplant surgery. I thought about how the National Kidney Foundation of Maryland, through donations and events like this one, is able help so many patients, especially the ones I work with daily at UMMC.

I remembered how excited I was to tell Kelly Meltzer (Director of the National Kidney Foundation of Maryland) that I am not rapelling alone this year – that I had convinced three more people to join me because they also believe in the mission. My fellow team members from UMMC included Deb Evans, Heather Hurley and Michele Postol. I had such a great experience last year that I volunteered to be part of the Rappel for Kidney Health Committee for this year.

These thoughts overpowered any fear I had about rappelling 32 stories. As I made my way down the side of the Marriott, a funny thing happened, I actually began to enjoy it! It was great to have to a bird’s eye view of the Inner Harbor and the water.  It was an honor to be part of the Rappel for Kidney Health event and I can’t wait for next year’s jump!

Here are some key kidney facts from the National Kidney Foundation:

  • More than 90,000 people are on the waitlist for a kidney transplant.
  • 10 people die each day while waiting for a kidney transplant.
  • 26 million Americans have chronic kidney disease, and most don’t know it.
  • Every 5 minutes, someone’s kidney fails.
  • More than 380,000 people depend on dialysis for survival.

As a Pre-Transplant coordinator at the University of Maryland for 6+ years, I am honored to be a part of this institution. We have surgeons who are so technically advanced that they can care for the most complex patients when other centers can’t offer them any options. I have the pleasure of working with the pre- transplant coordinators, assistants, and nurses who live and breathe transplant all day, every day.

I believe that early detection of kidney disease, having a living donor transplant when possible, and getting an early referral to the transplant division can help kidney transplant patients have their best outcomes.

We are still raising money to help fight kidney disease, so feel free to donate to our UMMC Transplant team.

Rappel on!






Donate Life: A Transplant Surgeon’s Powerful and Personal Plea

By Matthew Cooper, M.D.
Director of Kidney Transplantation

Recent world events are a powerful reminder of life’s uncertainty. Even if everything seems fine today, none of us really knows what dramatic changes or tragic circumstances we might face tomorrow. The more than 110,000 Americans waiting for lifesaving organ transplants feel the pain of an uncertain future each and every day.

April is National Donate Life Month, an excellent opportunity to learn more about organ and tissue donation. There are many great resources to answer some of the questions you or a family member may have about living donation as well. The University of Maryland Medical Center Web site has a whole section on living kidney donation, including answers to frequently asked questions. Data is available on the United Network of Organ Sharing’s Web site about the numbers of patients waiting, the time with which they wait for that call, and efforts at a national level to improve the quality and outcomes for organ transplantation.

Organizations such as the National Kidney Foundation have initiatives like “End the Wait!” and provide readers with basic yet substantial things that can be done on a personal level to help make a difference to someone in need. Importantly, register as an organ donor on the National Kidney Foundation Web site or sign up for your state’s donor registry in conjunction with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Share your wishes with your family and talk about your decision to inspire others.

As a transplant surgeon I have the privilege of seeing day by day the life-changing (literally giving life to another human being) opportunities via organ donation. A recent example was the inspiring case of 26-year-old Drew Sollenberger, who came to us wanting to donate a kidney to the person of greatest need. This person turned out to be a 2-year-old boy with life threatening kidney disease, who now has a second chance at life.

I regularly share with anyone who will listen that I know I have the best job in the world. We have an incredible team made of truly wonderful individuals invested in transplantation here at the University of Maryland. A group of hundreds is necessary to make certain we protect this valuable resource in an organ for transplantation. But we cannot do this job we love without you. It only takes one … one decision to last for another’s lifetime.

Life is like a relay race. When my run is complete, I hope to pass the baton to someone who is waiting to receive the gift of life to advance on their own journey. I cannot be sure that they will win or even finish the race, but without someone to pass the baton, I know that they will continue to wait or may even die prematurely.

While you can’t control the future, you can choose to pass on the Gift of Life to make a lifetime of tomorrows possible by registering as an organ and tissue donor and considering living donation.

April is Donate Life Month!

Other Posts by Dr. Cooper

A “Transplant Miracle”

Twenty-six-year-old Drew Sollenberger wanted to donate a kidney.

Two-year-old Ethan Hatton needed a new kidney to live.

Their separate stories became one thanks to the University of Maryland Medical Center, whose doctors removed one of Drew’s kidneys and inserted it in Ethan on January 19, 2011.

Watch the videos below to learn the whole story and to see the first meeting between donor and recipient. You will be glad you did.

The (Non-Directed) Donor: “Giving a little child another chance at life seemed like a no brainer.”

The Recipient: “How do you get an adult kidney into a two-year-old?”

The Meeting: “He’s almost part of the family now, because he gave Ethan the one gift he needed — a new kidney.”

Kidney Exchange from the Participants’ Perspective

By Chris Lindsley
Blog Editor

The University of Maryland Medical Center recently completed a four-way kidney exchange involving eight patients from four states.

Get a real sense for what this exchange was like from the participants involved, including several patients, UMMC’s director of kidney transplantation and its transplant coordinator.

1. Ed Behn, the person responsible for making the kidney exchange possible, shares his story.

2. Emmet Davitt talks about why he got involved in the kidney exchange, his experience at UMMC and more.


3. Bob Loudermilk, a 74-year-old dialysis patient, goes from flying cadaver kidneys to hospitals to having a life-changing kidney donation. Read Bob’s story.


4. The mother of Sean Menard, who at 10 was the youngest participant in the kidney exchange, shares her and Sean’s story.

5. Transplant surgeon Dr. Matthew Cooper provides an overview of the kidney exchange.

6. Transplant coordinator Debbie Iacovino talks about the work involved in putting the kidney exchange together.