Janet Henderson - 49

Janaka West Janet HendersonJanaka West (left) donated on behalf of her mother, Janet Henderson“I am the third generation in my family to be diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease. I have one daughter who will be the fourth generation with it; we already know she has it. My grandfather and grandmother had it. My mother had it, and she’s had two brothers who had it. There were four children, and the other daughter didn’t have PKD, but she did have cancer in one of her kidneys.

“I’m 55 and my mom died when she was 54. My grandmother was in her 40s when she died. When she died they had just figured out what PKD was. They were treating her for heart disease because the symptoms are so close to each other.

“I was 32 or 33 when I found out I had it. I was going to a doctor to help me lose weight, and I tried and couldn’t do it. She had me come back for three weeks straight and nothing was helping me lose weight, but my blood pressure was going up higher and higher. After that, she decided to check me and find out what was going on. That’s when I found out I had PKD. 

“They put a graft in my arm a few months prior to my transplant because I was at the point of going on dialysis. I’ve been waiting three years for the transplant. I knew the road I was traveling.

“I found out a couple of months before my transplant date that this was a possibility. I went to Jackson, Mississippi, first, and my son was tested there to see if he was a match for me. And at first, everything was perfect. It was amazing how perfect everything was. They did the last test of our blood, and that’s when there was a reaction. They had even scheduled surgery. That was supposed to be our last cross match. And then, the same thing happened to my daughter, Janaka. We just couldn’t match up. 

“When I found out they had a match for me here at UAB, I was just in awe. I couldn’t believe it. It was like a dream. To know that I’m not going to have to feel this way anymore is wonderful. This is a blessing. That’s what it is. The person giving me the kidney is giving me a blessing. It’s giving me years on my life with my children, grandchildren and wonderful husband. 

“I’m looking forward to doing some of the things I used to do. I used to walk all of the time. I love walking in the woods and out in the country — enjoying nature. I’d gotten to where I couldn’t do it anymore. I love working on my farm and working on the tractor, and I couldn’t do that anymore. I loved to crochet, and I couldn’t do that anymore. When I would sit there and try to concentrate, my mind would just go blank, and I’d start shaking. Some of the medicine I was taking caused me to shake. I can’t read a book because my mind goes blank. I can’t retain what I’m reading. And no matter what I eat, I’m nauseated. I’m just tired of being sick.

“The worst part is not being able to participate in my church activities. I’m really looking forward to that. This transplant will give me a chance to try and do all of these things again. 

“My wonderful daughter Janaka donated on my behalf.  I thought about asking my kids if they would help me get a transplant by donating to me or for me, but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t ask them. They wanted to do it, but it took me years to let myself begin to accept that my kids could do this. They are giving away a healthy part of their body, and I didn’t like that at all. They’d tell me it didn’t matter; they were going to do it.

“I’ve wondered what could I do to show Janaka how much that means to me. Words can’t do it. She’s a brave girl to do what she’s doing. I know the heavenly father is going to bless her and the other person that’s doing this. I know that. That’s what gives me the strength to continue. 

“It feels like we’re doing exactly what our heavenly father expects us to do. This chain, this opportunity, is something good that can be shown to the world.”  

Celebrating the nation's longest kidney chain

High-tech medicine and human kindness combine in UAB's ongoing kidney chain, a series of transplant surgeries that have given 101 people so far a new lease on life. The chain is the nation's longest ever.

The kidney chain has been kept going by many remarkable acts of sacrifice, and has revealed many moving stories of determination. Tyler Williamson went to TEDx Birmingham’s 2017 event in March expecting to be inspired and to network and make new connections with fellow attendees. What the 27-year-old did not anticipate was that inspiration would lead him to volunteer to become a living kidney donor just seven months later. See his story in this video:

In their words, stories from our transplant donors and recipients.

Kendra BrooksKendra Brooks. After more than four years of dialysis treatments, Kendra Brooks received her transplant in April 2016. Kendra’s mom donated a kidney so her daughter could receive one and wrote a letter to share the news. “It said, ‘God has answered our prayers. We have a match.’ I cried puddles of tears of joy,” Kendra says. Learn more about Kendra.

sheldon vaughn webSheldon Vaughn. High blood pressure and diabetes ravaged Sheldon Vaughn’s kidneys, and it was the kindness of two donors who helped him achieve a transplant. “A dialysis nurse my wife and I came to know wanted to donate to me, but wasn’t a match for me, and her kidney went to a woman in Florida. But because of her donation, I was able go on the UAB list and received my kidney from a young woman named Nicole who had contacted UAB and wanted to donate her kidney to anybody. So in a sense, I feel like I have two donors.” Learn more about Sheldon.

laura burks w Laura Burks. With a desire to help others, Laura Burks was looking for her next opportunity when a friend posted on her blog about how she was going to donate a kidney. “I thought, ‘That is what I need to do,’ Laura says. “Before that, I didn’t know you could be a loving donor. I thought it was something that happens after you pass away. After realizing that I could give away an organ that I don’t have to have to live with, I thought, ‘If I don’t do this, my life’s not complete.’ I just knew somebody needed a kidney and they’re depending on some stranger to give up theirs, and I was that stranger. Learn more about Laura.

William Harris w William Harris. High blood pressure caused William Harris’ kidneys to fail, and he was told he would eventually need a kidney transplant to live. After nine years of dialysis treatments, his wish came true. “When I was told I was a candidate to get a transplant, and that there was a match for me, I didn’t have any fears,” William says. “I was humbled to know that someone wanted to give me a kidney.” Learn more about William.

Become a part of the chain

Donate a kidney 
If you would like to donate to someone in need of a transplant, begin by filling out this form. You can learn more about kidney transplantation at UAB here.  

Get on the list
If you are in need of a kidney transplant, you will need a referral from your nephrologist. Your doctor can get all the details here.

Give a gift
Support the UAB Comprehensive Transplant Institute with a donation online .

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UAB Kidney Chain news

kidney chain 100 graphic kc siteNation’s longest single-site kidney chain reaches 100

To date, 101 living donors have changed the lives of 101 recipients as part of the nation’s longest ongoing single-center paired kidney transplant chain.

kc baseball thumbUAB baseball team helps Mississippi family cope with loss of father, husband

Young boy loses his dad, but finds many father figures on UAB's baseball team.

div kcFrom transplant lab worker to donor, employee becomes part of UAB’s world-record kidney chain

Divyank Saini is a UAB lab technologist and one of 17 employees who work behind the scenes at UAB Hospital to bring hope to those waiting on heart, lung, kidney, liver and other transplants. Saini made a decision that he wanted to do more than just his important work of interpreting lab samples to find the right matches. He decided to become a living donor and is UAB Kidney Chain donor No. 57. 

chalice kc2Science, generosity save lives in UAB Kidney Chain

Meet a family bound not by blood or name, but by their kidneys in the world’s longest living-donor kidney transplant chain. Discover how science and human kindness come together to save lives.

kc surgeryIncompatible, yet needed: What are incompatible kidney transplants? And why are they done?

The human body is primed to identify and destroy invaders like viruses, bacteria and other pathogens that can bring illness or death. Cells of the immune system and the antibodies they make recognize such foreign bodies and act to remove and destroy them. This defense system is a potential problem for kidney transplants. People have different blood groups and different human leukocyte antigens that can provoke an attack if a tissue, such as a kidney, or blood is transferred from one person to another. These two barriers are called blood group incompatibility and tissue (or histo-) incompatibility. A kidney transplant team uses the histocompatibility and blood bank testing laboratories to determine whether the tissues and blood group of a volunteer living kidney donor and the intended recipient match. A match is good, but matches are not always possible.

Jerry Phillips kcCommunity of the South: Donors help stretch UAB Kidney Chain to record 51 transplants

Fifty-first transplant means 102 total surgeries have been performed since December 2013 as the nation’s longest-ever chain continues to grow.

thompson kcNation’s longest kidney transplant chain reaches 34

The UAB kidney chain, which began December 2013 and expects more transplants in January 2015, ‘showcases the power of the human spirit in every aspect.’

nightline kcNation’s largest single-site kidney transplant chain underway at UAB

Since December, 21 living donor kidney transplants that have taken place at UAB are connected as donors “pay it forward” for a recipient to keep the chain going, and more transplants are scheduled for July.

locke press conferenceSnow can’t stop the Southeast’s largest kidney transplant chain at UAB

The unexpected 2014 snowstorm that crippled the Southeast did not deter the transplant team at UAB from continuing the largest nondirected donor chain ever performed at a single center in the Southeast. 

1080px UPDATE Kidney map 2018

The kidney chain has brought donors and recipients to UAB from across the eastern United States and as far away as Oregon.

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Learn more

dr locke video

UAB transplant surgeon Jayme Locke, M.D., and transplant nephrologist Vineeta Kumar, M.D., discuss living kidney donation and paired-kidney exchange in a series of videos on UAB's MD Learning Channel.