The long road to a live kidney donation

From the United States, Jennifer Agri tells the story of how she donated her kidney to her brother with kidney disease. To make this living donation possible in order to ensure that her brother would have another chance at life, more patience than anticipated was needed.

This is my family, and this is the image (below) I think of when I recall how my kidney donation journey started. My family was fortunate to enjoy a weeklong vacation in Cape Cod in August of 2020. We enjoyed long bike rides, days on the beach, late-night outdoor movies, and lots of laughs.



It was the day after this vacation ended when my brother announced that his kidney disease had progressed, and it was time to discuss dialysis and transplant options. Joy turned to concern as we anxiously waited to hear more.

In a matter of weeks, my brother’s creatinine numbers increased dramatically, and it became clear that the need for a transplant was immediate and not something that could wait.  Family and friends began submitting living donor intake forms to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, but I quickly bubbled to the top as the ideal candidate.

In early October, it seemed I would be the donor, which gave us hope, but little did we know that the donor evaluation would be such a long and taxing process.

Out of an abundance of caution for my well-being, I was checked from head to toe.

Because of the thorough medical investigation, incidental findings kept popping up that required more labs, tests, and specialty visits. I felt frustrated by the process because I so desperately wanted to be the solution for my brother. If it was not me, then who would fulfill this role?

After an exhausting three months, I received the phone call that I was approved to donate to my brother. It was January 6, 2021, which happened to be National Bean Day. My husband and children joined me as we raced over to my brother’s to share the good news and deliver a jar of jellybeans in celebration.  For the first time in months, we had something truly amazing to celebrate.

The next day we learned that living donor transplants were on hold in the state of Massachusetts due to COVID. While the news was disappointing, we decided to select a spring surgery date with the hopes that it would allow us to prepare and not be derailed again due to COVID. 

Our surgery took place on May 25, 2021, at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For me, the first nine days were challenging, but I quickly healed and slowly started to resume all the things I love to do. Most people were shocked to see me hiking in Acadia National Park just 6 weeks after my surgery, but I felt GREAT!

This was one of the most rewarding and humbling experiences of my life.  I see my brother looking and feeling good and can’t believe the life-saving miracle that took place. I hope that my kidney allows him to live a long, healthy, and happy life.

In April of 2022, our families celebrated the successful outcome, just one month shy of our one-year transplant anniversary.