Every day, twenty-two people on the national transplant waitlist die simply because they run out of time.* That’s the size of a small class. In one month, the number hits almost 700. That translates into the total number of students that I taught in my career. Shocking. I can’t imagine missing out on the blessing of teaching any of my students.

I remember signing the back of my driver’s license at sixteen. I didn’t feel any personal connection to organ donation. The only possibility was my Aunt Georgette. She was on dialysis but didn’t consider a transplant because she had seen too many friends return after their new kidneys were rejected.

I didn’t think about organ donation until a few years ago. My Aunt Georgette’s daughter, Denise, had inherited Polycystic Kidney Disease and was experiencing the same symptoms that had taken her mother’s life. Facing kidney failure, she was lethargic, losing weight, and struggling with daily responsibilities. Dialysis was ruled out because of complicating health conditions. Her only hope was a transplant. Everyone prayed for a miracle.   

The average waiting time for a kidney transplant is 5 to 7 years. She couldn’t last that long. Denise considered looking for a living kidney donor. Her husband, Peter, tested and was determined to be compatible. However, the transplant team discovered that he had a medical condition that could compromise his health. Other people said that they would get tested, but never followed through. 

After Peter was denied, my family stepped forward. Testing took about six months. One by one, every person was rejected because they weren’t compatible. Except for me. The team determined that I was a “perfect match.” Who says that God doesn’t answer prayers?  

Before transplant

After transplant

The transplant took place on December 30, 2014. Since then, we are both doing well. Denise is now able to stay home and take care of her two grandchildren. I spend my spare time talking to groups about the urgent need for more living kidney donors. This August, I’m traveling with Donate Life Georgia to Salt Lake City, Utah to participate in the Transplant Games of America.


Are you registered as an organ donor? Let your family know your wishes. Find out more at www.registerme.org You can learn more about me at www.lisahetzel.com.


First grandchild

*Data from the Donate Life America Quarterly Donor Designation Report and the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) as of January 1, 2018.