Don White should be the poster child for kidney transplants. It’s been 30 years and counting since he was given a life-saving gift. National Kidney Month, celebrated every March, brings awareness to kidney health and encourages people to support kidney disease research. Over time, the kidneys can become damaged and sometimes with little or no physical symptoms to warn you that they are in trouble.
“As far as I know, I’m the only person in my family who has had any kidney issues,” he said. “In 1990, I experienced kidney failure and was eventually put on dialysis. And not quite two years later, I got my kidney transplant.”
White says before the transplant he was existing but not really living. And after the transplant, it was like he was given a whole new life again. “The transplant was what I needed. It made me appreciate life so much more. Without it, I wouldn’t have lived.”
And for someone very accustomed to working, White couldn’t wait to get back to his everyday life. “I worked full-time at the paper mill as a customer service representative, I became a vocational pastor and I had a farm on the side. Six weeks after my transplant surgery, I was asking my doctor to go back to work,” he laughed. “It’s hard to put into words what it was like to get back to what I was used to.”
Beyond working, White says he was able to see his children grow up, get married, and have grandchildren. And he was also able to see his grandchildren graduate from high school and attend college. “I’ve seen things happen in our extended family that I never would have been able to experience at all,” he added.
And as a church pastor, White’s life has touched so many other lives in 30 years, that it’s hard to imagine how much he would have missed out on. “With all the people we’ve gotten to know, I wouldn’t have met any of them without my gift.”
As is the case with a lot of transplant recipients, White says it’s hard to express how much the gift has meant to him and his family. “It’s life that you’ve given this person,” he said. “It’s so much gratitude and thanks. There’s no way that I could thank them enough.”
When asked whether he would encourage anyone to become a registered organ donor, White points to the impact that one decision had for him and all the lives he’s personally touched for 30 years. “You can’t put a value on organ donation,” he said. “You can’t put a value on extending someone’s life for 30 years to be able to enjoy their family and do the things they want to do. It’s way beyond any monetary value.”