How do you make the most of a global pandemic? You gather a group of six amazing Kidney Donor Athletes and have a fun little virtual Yahtzee tournament as a way to connect with other people, build community, and maintain sanity. Then, when the tournament is over, you have a happy hour Zoom where you dream up crazy ideas like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro together. During that first conversation, none of us had any idea what we were in for or what this would really become.

Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro was always on my bucket list, but I never knew when and I certainly didn’t know how. Donating a kidney wasn’t necessarily on my bucket list, but like the epic climb, I didn’t know where or how. Just as randomly as the One Kidney Climb came to be, so did my one-kidney journey.

I first learned of kidney donation when I was around 12 years old and an uncle needed a donation.

Fast forward 20-plus years to the spring of 2013, when my cousin Sammi posted on Facebook that she needed a kidney.

I had an immediate gut reaction that I would be the one to donate. It’s unexplainable. It didn’t cross my mind to question it or to feel anything but anticipation for the news that she would get a life-saving kidney from me.

The stars aligned, and on June 26, 2013, my spare kidney was gifted to her at the Mayo Clinic.

It has changed both of our lives. As she tells it, we were lying on our hospital beds next to each other in pre-op, and she asked me if I was sure if I wanted to do this. I point blank answered, “yes, we’re doing this.” That was that–no second thoughts whatsoever. What truly matters is that she’s healthy and happy, nearly 10 years later.

Finding the Kidney Donor Athletes community has been a blessing. I have made lifelong friends in this community. Now, I get to challenge myself physically and spend time with 21 other amazing KDAs.

In life, it isn’t often we get to cross items off our bucket lists, have once-in-a-lifetime adventures, and make a difference doing so. It’s an incredible honor to get to be a part of the inaugural One Kidney Climb, wear the logo, and hopefully inspire others to donate.

Shawna is a social worker in Spokane, Washington. When she is not climbing mountains, she enjoys trail running, kayaking, biking, staying active, reading, and hanging out with her dog, George. Shawna donated her kidney on June 26, 2013, at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, and is on the Board of Directors of Kidney Donor Athletes. “I donated because someone I loved was in need, and I was able to help. It’s really that simple.”

More information about living kidney donation and Kidney Donor Athletes can be found at kidneyregistry.org and kidneydonorathlete.org.

%d bloggers like this: