Association Coworkers Forge a Unique Bond: Kidney Donation

When an American Simmental Association employee heard that her coworker needed a kidney transplant, she offered to donate one of her own. Now the two are connected in a way that most colleagues never experience.

We may love our coworkers, but we generally don’t donate our organs to them.

There are always exceptions, however,  and here’s one: Two employees of the American Simmental Association, a trade group for breeders of Simmental and Simbrah cattle, recently developed a deep bond over an act that most people will never experience.

Nancy Chesterfield, a longtime ASA staff member, had been diagnosed with a rare kidney disease and eventually would face years of dialysis or would need a kidney transplant. Kathy Shafer, one of Chesterfield’s coworkers, heard about her situation and offered to donate one of her own.

As it turned out, Shafer was in a good position to make that offer.

“I was absolutely overwhelmed,” Chesterfield said in an article on ASA’s website. “I had already checked with my siblings, and none of them was a match. After the necessary blood work and tests were performed, Kathy came up a perfect match.”

Last December, just days before Chesterfield would have been required to go on dialysis, the two women went into the hospital to undergo their surgeries.

“The best way to perform a transplant is directly from the donor to the recipient as quickly as possible,” Shafer said. “They did not remove my organ until Nancy had been fully prepared to receive it. When she was ready, doctors promptly removed my kidney and inserted it in her. Because it was so quick, there was no chance for tissue deterioration.”

Chesterfield, who will take anti-rejection pills for the rest of her life as a result of the transplant, felt immediate relief after receiving the new kidney, including a great boost of energy.

“I can’t be any more grateful to Kathy—she gave me a part of her own body and saved my life,” Chesterfield said.

Hope for Other Patients

Kidney matches between unrelated people are relatively rare, but recent discoveries in the medical world could change that.

A breakthrough procedure called desensitization, reported last month in the New England Journal of Medicine, changes patients’ immune systems, allowing them to potentially be matched with kidneys donated from almost anyone.

The procedure is expensive and relies on drugs that haven’t been approved for this specific purpose, but experts say the cost is less than the cost of dialysis over the span of a lifetime, the New York Times reported.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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