Lauren Abernathy - 32

donor shirt “Mary never asked one thing of me, and she never would. She wouldn’t ask anything of anybody. I’m sure she probably thought this was her battle. But I didn’t want her to fight it alone. I just tried to see what I could do to help. Mary is my sister-in-law, my brother’s wife and my niece’s mom. I just could not think of what it would be like to watch her get sick. If there is something I can do to keep her here and keep her healthy, that’s what I have to do.

“We did the testing at UAB and we were not a match, but we entered the paired program. I didn’t want something to happen to Mary and for me to not have tried something. I had a discussion with my husband, Gerald, and told him I wanted to try. I had to.

“When we got the call, I said, this is it. This is going to happen.

“This has been the most emotional ride I have ever been on. There was a huge part of me in the beginning that was hesitant, but as time went by and I started to see how great this was going to be for Mary and someone else, everything really settled down for me. It was a calm feeling.

“I’m feeling good one week out from surgery. Recovery has been a bit tougher than I expected. I don’t think I put enough stock into when you go in as a donor there is nothing wrong with you, but it’s harder on you after the surgery. But it’s amazing that every single day I do feel better. That first day after surgery was tough. But I woke up Sunday morning 200 percent better. And it just gets better each day. In fact, I planned to be at school for my sons Bryson and James’s Christmas parties just a week after my surgery.

“The thing about Mary is she’s my sister. Even if there were 50 people able to do this for her, I still wanted to do it. I felt like I had to. It wasn’t without being scared or worried – I have my own family – but I had enough confidence in the doctors at UAB that they wouldn’t do this if they didn’t think I would come out fine.

“The whole chain and the whole process has been amazing. That one person came up and wanted to do this for somebody ... it’s amazing to me. You think about kidney donation, when you’re on the outside looking in, and coworkers and friends say I’m amazing for donating. I don’t feel like that. I just feel like I’m doing something I need to do for my family.

“Watching Mary go through this with so much strength and so much dignity is so powerful. When it became apparent her kidneys were failing and we talked about things, the only time she got emotional was when she talked about possibly going on dialysis. She watched her mom do that, and she didn’t want to. She’s been a rock.”

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.