Ed Behn's Willingness to Donate a Kidney to Someone in Need Made a 4-Way Swap Possible
Ed Behn made a 4-way paired kidney exchange possible and started the chain when he volunteered to donate a kidney to the person of greatest need (this is referred to as a non-directed donor). Here is Ed's story:
What led you to do this?
It's something that has intrigued me for a while. I knew there was a tremendous need for live kidney donors from the statistics. Other factors in my decision were that a good friend of mine passed away from renal failure in July 2008. It brought to light what can happen. I also have a sister-in-law who has been the head of a dialysis unit for 25 years, and I've seen how devastating being on dialysis can be. In the end, I thought donating a kidney to someone who really needs one would be a good thing to do. I have been active in the Boy Scouts for many years and their slogan is "Do a good turn daily." My donation was just a way for me to do a good turn.
How did you choose the University of Maryland?
I was researching transplant centers on the Web and came across University of Maryland's site. I was very impressed with the content, the completeness and the way information was presented. It is really good educational site, in terms of both facts and statistics, as well as the video and multimedia content. It seemed to be to be a really solid program, and the Web site made me feel comfortable going there.
Describe your experience at University of Maryland before, during and after the procedure.
It was outstanding. I went in for preoperative anesthesia on Friday (three days before his surgery). Everything was done in an efficient way. Sometimes in health care you wait forever; that wasn't the case. People knew I was coming and were ready for me. The initial admission process went well. I had been given lots of information, so there were no surprises. The day of surgery the transplant coordinator met me and escorted me to pre-op area. Everybody was very welcoming and efficient. The anesthesiologists were wonderful. The post-operative staff was very supportive and encouraging and kept me well informed. There was never a gap where I wondered what would happen next.
What advice would you give to others thinking about living kidney donation?
Go and talk to people. Educate yourself. I would encourage people to investigate it. Realize that they can make a difference personally. At a place like the University of Maryland, living kidney donor transplants have become commonplace. And with recent medical advances, like the single incision surgery I had, the risk factors are very manageable. If you still have questions, contact someone on the transplant team.
Describe your feelings on being the one to make this kidney exchange possible.
It makes me feel special in a way, that one person is able to have this multiplicative effect. In the end I gave one kidney to one recipient, as did everyone else in this exchange. The fact that the University of Maryland could use me -- I sometimes refer to myself as a wild card because I was willing to donate to anyone -- to make this exchange possible for others is all the better.
As I mentioned earlier, I'm very active in scouting. I particularly enjoy teaching and training new adult leaders. A number of times I have been on the staff of the BSA management development program called "Wood Badge." In that program, one of the key points we talk about is "Leaving a Legacy." In effect we challenge the participants to think about how their lives and their actions can make a difference to others. I'm just happy that I was healthy enough to be a part of this paired kidney exchange. I hope my action has made a difference.
Do you consider yourself a hero?
I never thought it was a big deal, but others have approached me to say thanks and how great it was that I did this. One of my nurses told me that she had lost both parents to kidney disease, and that knowing someone like me who was willing to donate to anyone was very emotional and moving for her. Things like that were very touching. I really don't consider what I did that unique or great. Mother Teresa once said, "In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love."
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