My Living Donation Journey – Part 1: The Decision

Although The Living Legacy Foundation only facilitates deceased organ, eye and tissue donation, our organization is supportive of all members of the transplant community, including those involved in living donation. Because of this, Lauren Muskauski, community outreach associate for The LLF, thought it would be interesting to write about her own experiences as she navigated through the process of becoming a living donor. These blog entries, pulled from her personal journal, will be posted in parts for the next few weeks as she awaits the final stage of her journey: surgery. For more information about living donation, you may visit one of our transplant centers’ web pages: University of Maryland Medical Center, www.umm.edu/transplant or The Johns Hopkins Hospital, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/transplant.


I am going to start from the beginning. It’s no secret I love my job and remain passionate about organ donation, and most people know why. For those who don’t, here is the cliff notes version: my dad died waiting for a liver transplant when I was 19 years old. I was a sophomore in college, and his death turned my whole world upside down. It took some time for me to stop asking, “why him?” and I often wondered why my dad didn’t get the transplant he needed, but others did. Working for The Living Legacy Foundation has allowed me to learn so much more about donation and transplantation, and as a result, I have been able to find the closure I needed in order to completely come to terms with my dad’s death.

In the past three years of working for The LLF, I have been given the opportunity to learn a lot about the cause I so passionately support. Although our organization works on the donor side of transplantation, I’ve always taken an interest in living donation as well. I had wanted to be tested to donate a portion of my liver to my dad when we found out he needed a transplant, but he wouldn’t even consider it as an option. Ever since then, I’ve always been open to the idea of being a living donor. If a friend or family member ever needed something I could provide, I would do it without hesitation. Since The LLF works so closely with Maryland’s transplant hospitals (The Johns Hopkins Hospital and University of Maryland Medical Center), we have had the opportunity to have transplant surgeons from both transplant centers come to our office to tell us more about their living donor programs. Every time I attended one of those presentations, my interest in becoming a living donor was piqued, but not enough to make me want to call a transplant center and offer to altruistically donate a kidney to a stranger.

Tyler, 19, is currently waiting for a kidney transplant.

And then, Judy Waller called me and everything changed. Judy is the grandmother of Tyler Jenkins, a 19-year-old who is currently waiting for a kidney. She called our office to ask for help with getting Tyler’s story into the public in order to try to find him a living donor. I asked Judy to send me Tyler’s story so I could write a blog post about it and work on some media pitching for them. His story broke my heart, and after exchanging quite a few e-mails with Judy, I felt overwhelmingly compelled to try to help Tyler. So without telling Judy or Tyler, I called Hopkins and offered to donate a kidney to him. (Click here to read Tyler’s story.)

I knew when I called that my blood type was not compatible with Tyler’s, but thanks to what I’ve learned through The LLF, I knew that wasn’t the end of the story. There are things like paired kidney exchanges and donor chains, which assist donor/recipient pairs who are incompatible with each other to find another donor/recipient pair(s) with whom they can exchange kidneys to allow a transplant to take place.

The coordinator I spoke with at The Johns Hopkins Comprehensive Transplant Center e-mailed me the paperwork I needed to begin the living donation process. I happily filled it out and faxed it back. Then I received a call letting me know they were interested in having me proceed to the next part of the evaluation process for living donors: tissue typing. This is when they would test my blood to confirm my blood type and tissue type for antigen match and cross-match.

At this point, I still hadn’t told Tyler or his family I was doing this. I didn’t want to get their hopes up, and I don’t want to get my own hopes up either. I was basically hoping I could be the missing piece of a puzzle, and that my decision to be a living donor would mean that Tyler could get his transplant and go on to live the normal life of a 19-year-old.

Stay tuned for more progress on my journey to become a living donor!

More entries from this series:
My Living Donation Journey – Part 1: The Decision
My Living Donation Journey – Part 2: Defending My Decision
My Living Donation Journey – Part 3: Taking a Break
My Living Donation Journey – Part 4: The Approval
My Living Donation Journey – Part 5: Holy Toledo!
My Living Donation Journey – Part 6: A New Kidney for Tyler
My Living Donation Journey – Part 7: Ciao, Left Kidney!
My Living Donation Journey – Part 8: The Surgery
My Living Donation Journey – Part 9: The Recovery

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About Lauren

Lauren Muskauski is the communications associate at The Living Legacy Foundation. She heads up many community outreach initiatives and projects, with a focus on middle school, high school and college outreach. She also manages The LLF’s and Donate Life Maryland’s presence on social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook. Lauren’s commitment to donation started early when she registered as an organ, eye and tissue donor at the MVA upon receiving her first drivers’ license, but was then reinforced a few years later when her father passed away while waiting for a liver transplant. Now, she continues to be inspired on a daily basis by the generosity of donors and their families, as well as the gratitude exhibited by every recipient she meets.
This entry was posted in Living Donation, Transplant Recipients. Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to My Living Donation Journey – Part 1: The Decision

  1. sandy says:

    What a wonderful gift. It touches my heart.

  2. Amy says:

    Thank you Lauren for being our angel here on earth! Love Tyler’s aunt.

  3. Lisa says:

    Hello Lauren,
    I am a recent living kidney donor. I dontated my kidney to a 2yr old girl who I dont know. My surgery was on Feb 1 at The University of Maryland. It has been a very long journey and an amazing experience. I hope to be able to meet my recipient and her family one day. If you have any questions or would just like to talk about it, please feel free to contact me, lisa3293@verizon.net. Like you my decision to donate was due to the death of a family member who had kidney disease…. Good luck to you and to TYler!!!

    • Lauren says:

      Hi Lisa,

      That is so kind of you! I will definitely keep you in mind should I have any questions. I belong to a Facebook group called “Living Kidney Donors” which has been very helpful through this whole process as well. Everyone has been so supportive, it’s been great! I hope you are doing well, and I wish you the best with meeting your recipient!

      Also, as a shameless plug, if you are ever interested in being involved with our organization, we’d love to have you! We are always looking for new people to share their story.

      Best,
      Lauren

  4. Shelley T. says:

    If my children grow up to be half as wonderful as you, I will feel blessed! You have no clue how you have touched my life and how much you have given to me and my family, yet you keep giving. You are one of the most amazing people in the world and I am proud to say “Hell yeah, I know Lauren”! She has a heart the size of the moon!!

    Love you Lauren!!!!
    Shelley T.

  5. Jane Early says:

    Lauren, Jenny, Tyler’s mom is my niece and one of the best Mothers I know. Jenny’s heart was broken when she lost her daughter Lauren just shy of her 13th birthday. Through her heartbreak and tears she continued on to raise her sons Tyler and Jeffrey with undaughting resilience. You are truly our family’s angel and I just can’t help but think you were sent to us from above. Your name alone brings thoughts of wonder to me, then to find out your Mother has the same name as Jenny’s Mother just reinforced it. I won’t be able to meet you but please accept a hug and thank you from me in Ohio. I know your life will continue to be blessed and your father is smiling down on you and so proud. Your Mother and father raised one special gal to be proud of. Thank you!

    • Lauren says:

      Jane,

      I know, the name coincidences are so crazy! I am happy to help, and I hope this is only the beginning of good things for Tyler and your family!

  6. Judy M. says:

    I can’t put into words all of the feelings I have about your passion and the person you are! I am so very proud of who you are and your decision to help Tyler. I’m also very proud to be your mother!!! XOXOXO

  7. Rupa Patel says:

    Lauren,

    Your story and your willingness to selflessly give this wonderful gift to one in need is wonderful. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Mike Butler says:

    Lauren, your making such a difference in becoming a living donor. As a Kidney/Pancreas recipient, 17 years post. I have been able to do many things because my HERO;”Kelly” saved my life. I was only on dialysis for 18 months. But the toll it was taking on my body, mind, and it was creating further medical problems. Since my “second chance”, and Kelly saving my life I have accomplished so much. I was able to watch my son graduate from high school, college, and get married. All my nieces and nephews grow-up, and get my college degree. Been able to go places I never thought I’d be able to see. Do the things I never thought I would ever do again. I went from a table full of medications, to just 3 in the morning, and 3 in the evening thanks to my working kidney and pancreas. This is only a taste of what you are doing for Tyler, and someone else by being an organ donor. Look forward to more of your blogs. Wishing you all the very best always. You, Tyler, and your recipient are in my thoughts words, and prayers! Keep smiling!!!

  9. Laura says:

    Lauren, what a beautiful idea to keep a blog with your journey, I wish I would have done it myself, I would be reading it and reading it all over again. Becoming a living donor is an amazing journey, life changing event…. You will see, after you have done it, you would want to keep donating and giving pieces and bits of yourself to help others live a better life…. If I could, I would do it again…. I pray to God, for more people like you to realize the huge heart they have and give others a chance…. You will become a hero, a true angel, and for that, God will always smile at you…. Everything will be just fine and both of your surgeries will be a success…
    Laura

  10. Tracy Blake says:

    I am Tyler’s former 5th grade teacher and I also work with his mom, Jenny. Words cannot express the gratitude we all feel for what you are so selflessly doing. When we heard the news it was as if we all (the entire JP Ryon Elementary School staff) had just hit the lottery! Thank you, thank you, thank you. You are an angel.
    All the best,
    Tracy Blake

  11. Joe Morrash says:

    Lauren, needless to say how very proud we are of you!!! Your courageous gift will save a life and will touch more people in so many ways that you and we will never know. You and Tyler and all the families remain in our thoughts and prayers. God bless you and keep you safe during the procedure. Love, Uncle Joe, Aunt Debra, Matt, and Jenn.

  12. Terry Boone says:

    Lauren, you are indeed the blessing we have all been hoping for! I have known Tyler and his family for many years and know what this means to them. Words cannot express how thankful I am that you are so loving and giving. I will be keeping all of you in my prayers. Thank you again! Yours,
    Terry Boone :)

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