Donate Life Month: Long-Time Friends in Harmony with Kidney Donation

Dottie Durham and Lynn Mays have been friends for years. Dottie plays the organ, while Lynn sings in the choir for Erlanger Christian Church in Northern Kentucky. They’re in the same book club. They also share the same blood type, O+.
While on a church retreat a few years ago, Dottie witnessed Lynn’s intense pain as polyps in her kidneys burst. Suffering from a genetic kidney condition that was likely to worsen, Lynn had both kidneys removed. She went on dialysis and was put on a national list for a donor kidney.

Dottie, a grandmother and retired teacher, considered offering one of her kidneys to Lynn. “I started Googling about what it would involve. I used to horseback ride, but I don’t do major physical things anymore. My kids are grown, and I wouldn’t have to leave work. It was perfect timing for my life.”

Initially, Lynn had another friend step forward to do a paired kidney exchange — the friend’s kidney would be given through a national registry in exchange for a matching kidney for Lynn. When the friend had to withdraw for health reasons, Dottie didn’t hesitate.

After church one Sunday in spring 2017, Dottie pulled Lynn aside and offered to be tested as a kidney donor for Lynn. “When I told her, she teared up and gave me a big hug,” Dottie says. “That was a special moment.”

A Perfect Match

Working with our transplant program, Dottie underwent thorough testing and learned that her kidney was a good match for Lynn’s.

“Everything went so smoothly,” she recalls. “The staff is absolutely wonderful. They were so thorough with their explanations. Jessica Enzweiler, donor transplant coordinator, was my go-to person if I had questions, and she’d get back to me with the next step.”

Dottie and Lynn scheduled their surgeries for late May 2017. Dottie was truly touched when she received a Mother’s Day card two weeks before surgery from Lynn’s daughters to thank her for giving Lynn a new chance at life.

The removal of Dottie’s left kidney and transfer to Lynn was a success. ““I never felt worried. I thought, ‘Lynn needs to carry on with her life.’ Once the basic pain of the incision went away, I felt fine,” Dottie says.

Because the kidney match was so good, Lynn recovered well, initially needing less anti-rejection medicine than anticipated.
Dottie regained her strength and was able to make a much-awaited trip to Germany in July to see her son and daughter-in-law and meet her new grandson, Max.

“I feel good about being able to help Lynn,” she reflects. “We were good friends before and continue to be good friends.”

They’ve started a unique correspondence: While in Germany, Right Kidney sent a postcard to Left Kidney with well wishes. As Lynn continues her recovery, Left Kidney hopes to reciprocate soon with a vacation postcard of her own.

Want to learn more about living kidney donation? Find answers to frequently asked questions, or call our kidney transplant team at 513-585-2493.