Each living kidney donor is brought to this opportunity in a different way. As NKDO Mentor Holly Armstrong shares just before the 2nd anniversary of her donation, her faith played a major role in her decision to move forward as a non-directed donor. Holly’s story also reflects the power of the National Kidney Registry voucher program to find the best kidney matches and provide donor protections.
My name is Holly Armstrong, and before donating my kidney, I was a wife, homeschool parent of three children, and a runner, and our entire family was very active in mission work in Guatemala. In December of 2019, I saw a local news article about a little boy who had my rare blood type (AB+) and who was in desperate need of a kidney. This planted a very important seed in my heart. I contacted the boy’s transplant coordinator about being tested for him, but they had such an overwhelming response that they didn’t seem to need me. However, I just couldn’t shake the idea of donation. Through much prayer, I realized I felt called to sign up with the National Kidney Registry, and in January of 2020, I began the process to become an altruistic donor. God spoke to my heart and reminded me that all people are His children. I felt that there was someone special He had in mind for my kidney. I had no idea what 2020 was about to unleash, with COVID and quarantines, but God opened all of the necessary doors for me to get all of the appropriate tests and approved to donate.
In October, I was matched with a stranger, whom at the time I knew nothing about, except that they lived in California, 3000 miles away from me. But on October 21, 2020, my left kidney was removed and flew first class from my transplant center, Emory, which is in Atlanta to my recipient’s transplant center, UCLA, in Los Angeles.
As I write this blog two years later, I am nothing but grateful for the entire experience. I’m physically completely healed and back to my athletic workouts, having run multiple trail races and even a half marathon since donating. But what makes my heart the happiest is the fact that my recipient is doing phenomenal. Her name is Kelley, and we have developed such a beautiful friendship over the last two years (we connected a month after our surgeries). Despite living across the country, Kelley and I facetime, text, and talk all the time. Her new kidney was a perfect match for her. She is healthy, happy and her only child is engaged, and Kelley is ecstatic to be healthy enough to be around for her daughter’s wedding – something she once feared she wouldn’t live long enough to see. One interesting thing about Kelley and my story is that Kelley’s husband, Peter, tried to donate to Kelley, but he was not her match. So, Peter utilized the NKR’s Standard Voucher program and donated his kidney to whoever needed it. This placed Kelley at the top of the transplant list, where she was matched with me within days, and she received her new kidney 4 weeks after Peter’s donation.
God is so good, and He gets all of the glory for this incredible journey, for both Kelley and for me. Choosing to donate is not always easy, but it IS worth it. The benefits absolutely outweigh the costs. I have never once regretted my decision to trust and obey God’s calling for my life in donating. God has provided for every step. I ended up donating my kidney, not knowing that I would in return be blessed with a new friend, the joy of knowing I was able to help someone in need, and the experience necessary to today be a Living Kidney Donor Mentor with the National Kidney Donor Organization where I mentor other donors as they walk a similar journey. It was all more than I could have ever hoped or imagined.