‘I Donated to Help My Best Friend’

April 3rd, 2024

Grand View employee reflects on the life-changing impact of organ donation

Kim Graber will never forget the day that her best friend drove up from Philly to pay her a visit.

“We were walking around my property, and she told me she wanted to put an ad in the newspaper,” Kim recalls. “She needed a kidney and was seeking a donor.”

It took Kim just a split second to reply. “No, you won’t,” she told her friend. “I’m going to get tested and donate my kidney to you.” And so began a lifechanging journey for Kim and her recipient.

Giving the gift of life

Living organ donors like Kim fill a vital need. Nearly 90,000 people in the U.S. are awaiting a kidney donation right now. Sadly, 17 people on the waiting list die each day because the need for organs exceeds the current number of available donors.

The average transplant candidate waits three-to-five years to receive a kidney from a deceased donor. But living donation allows someone to receive a kidney in one year or less.

“Everybody tells me that organ donation is a big deal, but I didn’t see it like that,” Kim says. “At the time, all I cared about was that my best friend since childhood had only one kidney that worked, and I had two. It just made sense to me.”

Before she made the commitment, Kim sat down with her youngest son, who was then 10. Kim’s son had a low-functioning kidney, and Kim was concerned he might need a transplant someday, too.

“I knew donating a kidney to my friend meant that I couldn’t donate to him if he would need one years later, so I talked with him to make sure he was comfortable with that,” Kim recalls. “He said to me, ‘Mom, your friend needs help right now. You need to do this.’”

Making a match

Kim underwent a series of medical appointments to confirm she and her kidneys were in perfect health, along with a mental health evaluation to ensure she was donating for the right reasons. Plus, Kim received blood testing to determine whether her kidney would be compatible with her donor. “I was so relieved when I found out I was a match, because I really wanted to do this for her,” Kim says.

The donation gave Kim’s friend many strong years, allowing her to see her daughter graduate and her son play football. “Now she’s a grandmother of two beautiful babies, and I’m grateful to have been a part of that,” Kim says.

Kim’s life has changed dramatically since her donation 20 years ago, too. Her youngest son is now 30, and his kidneys continue to function well. Kim, meanwhile, has changed careers. She’s gone from working in retail to caring for patients as a quality/clinical assistant on the Short Procedure Unit at Grand View Health.

Kim also remains a staunch advocate of organ donation. “Being a donor offers a world of opportunities to others,” she says. “I’d love to see more of this type of generosity in the world.”

Sidebar: Be a Donor

One organ and tissue donor can save up to eight lives and impact the lives of up to 75 others. Two ways to donate:

Become a living donor: You must be age 18 or older and in good physical and mental health. After donation, a living donor’s remaining kidney will enlarge, performing the work of two healthy kidneys.

Become a deceased donor: Anyone can sign up regardless of age or medical history. It takes only 30 seconds to register.

Visit RegisterMe.org to sign up as a living or deceased organ donor.