My name is Megan Anderson and I am a wife, mother, Air Force veteran and teacher living in the Seattle area. I donated my kidney on July 17, 2019, to a stranger through the paired exchange program.
Up to this point in my life, I would say I was very active. While on active duty in the military I lived in Colorado and enjoyed being a part of the running and triathlon community. I took pride in challenging myself to do better and get faster in whatever event I was currently training for. I completed numerous 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon events, including The Pikes Peak Ascent, a half marathon up one of Colorado’s 14,000 ft peaks. Multisport events included sprint triathlons, Olympic distance triathlons, and many duathlons of varying distances. I had found a love of being active and pushing myself and working towards a goal. As our family grew, moves happened and life circumstances changed, I found it difficult to be as dedicated to my goals. I still tried to maintain my fitness but without as much competition and formal events.
My journey toward donation started around Thanksgiving of 2018 when I saw a news story about a local man in my area who needed a kidney. His family had put up a few billboards around the Seattle suburbs asking for interested donors. The news station did a full story on this nice man and his family and I couldn’t help but think of my own dad who passed away a few years earlier from cancer. This man was around the same age, had grown children and grandchildren just like my dad would have if he were still alive. I knew in my heart that if anyone could have saved my dad and given him any more time with us, I would have desperately wanted them to. I immediately went to my computer and filled out the online questionnaire, honestly thinking it wouldn’t go much farther than that.
Fast forward through over 6 months of appointments and testing, I was an approved kidney donor. I was not a direct match for my intended recipient but was told I could do the paired exchange program and my intended recipient would get a kidney because of my donation to someone who was a match for me. Once activated in the National Kidney Registry, I was matched within about 6 weeks. I was told my kidney would travel to California and I would be the first donor starting a 6-person chain of 3 donors and 3 recipients. On July 17, my surgery was a success and my right kidney was successfully transplanted into its new home.
While going through this long process, I was a stay-at-home mom with 3 kids, ages 2, 5, and 9. My husband worked full-time and I knew this would have an impact on my life in both good and challenging ways. I was so fortunate that my family and friends were completely supportive of my decision to donate.
My surgery was without complications and I only spent one night in the hospital after donating. I feel the recovery was good and fast. The only issue I experienced was a minor infection of my main incision area. This was handled with ease by my care team and my recovery was easy. I couldn’t pick up my toddler for a while and moving was slow for a few weeks, but I began walking as much as possible and even went back to my workout class a week later, seriously modified of course! I even got a surprise call from the man who received my kidney a week after our surgeries. It was amazing to hear the story from his perspective and all that he went through leading up to that day. We are in contact still and I love hearing about all the amazing things he is able to do with his family because of receiving a kidney.
In the last 6 months, I have seen more growth in my personal fitness than I have in a long time. I got back into running regularly and completed my first half marathon, post-donation, in May. I am now training for another half marathon and looking forward to getting a full marathon on the calendar for 2021. I don’t think I experienced any unexpected hurdles during the donation process. I sought out as many stories and donor mentors that I could find. I tried to keep my expectations realistic and remember that one person’s experience is not going to be like someone else. There was always a chance for problems but that was a risk I was willing to take in order to donate. Being a kidney donor has changed my life for the better. I am grateful to share my spare with someone who needed it. I see this as another challenge I have been able to face and overcome to make myself better and set a giving example to my children, husband, and friends. I would do it again in a minute if I could.