Matt’s Wish: How Living Donation Changes Lives

Matt Parker’s kidney issues started after he was born. When he was only three weeks old, Matt started dialysis, which required him to be in the hospital three to four days each week. When he was two years old, Matt received his first kidney transplant from a deceased donor. Life was good until two and half years after his transplant, Matt’s body began rejecting his new organ, putting him back on the kidney transplant waitlist.

“His Christmas wish was to have a new kidney,” Matt’s mother, Lisa Parker, said.

Matt only had a 1% chance of finding a kidney match due to a high PRA (panel reactive antibody). This is common for people whose bodies have become sensitized due to previous transplants.

Through community outreach, Matt’s story inspired over 80 people to sign up as potential living kidney donors. Matt’s wish for a donor came true when his schoolteacher was identified as a perfect match.

“It was like finding a needle in a haystack for Matt to find his living donor, and I was the one that was lucky enough to be able to donate and help Matthew,” said Matt’s first grade teacher, Lindsey Painter.

Today, at 13, Matt is back in school, joining athletics, and looking much like his two brothers (the three of them are triplets). This would not have been possible without his teacher’s altruistic donation.

Lisa is eternally grateful for Painter’s donation. She reflects back on how difficult times were before Painter donated her kidney to Matt. “From today, compared to back then, it’s so different,” Lisa said. “It’s hard to imagine how bad it was.”

How living donation saves more lives, faster

There are many benefits of receiving an organ donation from a living donor, including for others who are waiting for a new organ. People on a donor transplant list can wait months or years to receive an organ. Here are just a few of the ways living donation saves lives:

  • A kidney transplant from a living donor starts working faster, lasts longer, and can extend the recipient’s lifespan compared to an individual who receives a kidney from a deceased donor.
  • Some people wait a long time for a liver transplant; some die waiting.
  • Living donation frees up a spot on the waitlist, which helps the next person on the waitlist get a transplant sooner.
  • Living kidney donation helps patients get off dialysis sooner. The sooner they are off dialysis, the better the outcome for recipients.

Matt certainly understands the benefits of living organ donation. “My teacher gave me a kidney. She’s very helpful and kind,” Matt said. “Living donors are heroes.”

Becoming a living kidney or liver donor

“When certain organs fail, like the kidneys, you have the ability to replace that function with a kidney donated from another person,” said Dr. Daniel Ranch, a pediatric nephrologist at University Health. “That kidney could come from someone who’s passed away recently or from a live person.”

With over 107,000 people waiting on the transplant list, living donors are more critical than ever. Donors can have children, work, run, and exercise after they’ve donated. There are no restrictions, but donors should commit to living a healthy lifestyle for the rest of their lives.

To qualify as a living kidney donor, you must be:

  • In good health, between ages 21 and 70 (70+ on a case-by-case basis)
  • Willing to complete all required testing
  • Able to understand the risks and possible complications of kidney donation
  • In a stable life situation with family or social support to help with recovery
  • Volunteering to donate free from coercion or pressure

To qualify as a living liver donor, you must be:

  • In excellent health with no chronic medical conditions
  • Between the ages of 21 and 55 years old
  • Able to understand the risks and possible complications involved with the surgery
  • Volunteering to donate, free from coercion or pressure

Looking back, Painter has no regrets about her decision to donate her kidney to Matt. “Becoming a living donor was one of the best things I’ve ever done,” she said.

For more information about living donation, visit

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