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'Donor Diva' Saves Two Lives

After altruistically donating her kidney in a swap that saved the lives of two people she didn't know, Nancy Miller continues to educate people on living organ donation.

For 20 years, Nancy Miller always thought about the idea of organ donation. In 2010, she donated a kidney that saved not one, but two lives.

Sunday she will participate in the National Kidney Foundation of Maryland's 10th annual Baltimore Kidney Walk at the Baltimore Zoo.

Working in a dialysis unit at a hospital in the 1980s before living donation was an option, Miller said she watched a lot of people die waiting for kidneys.

In 2001, she read about the ability for donors to give kidneys and thought it was a great idea after seeing so many people suffer during her time working at the hospital.

"In 2004 I really put it into thought and decided, 'I could do this,'" she said. "I prayed and researched and read and it took me four years to decide to do it. One day I woke up and decided I would do it."

Saving Two Lives

She began the donation process in 2008 and was presented with the opportunity to help save two lives in 2009.

After learning she wasn't a match for the wife of a man she worked with, she signed up for the paired kidney exchange program through the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC).

Under the program, when a prospective donor is not a match for a patient, the pair is entered into a database.

"The program is designed for patients who have a living donor that is otherwise healthy and suitable for donation but incompatible with their intended recipient," according to UMMC's website.

Once a compatible recipient is found who is a match for the donor, and vice versa, the exchange takes place.

This was the case for Miller and Cindy Wickesser of Sykesville. Miller worked as a contractor with Wickesser's husband, Craig, but she'd only bumped into him at work twice.

Another coworker learned of Cindy Wickesser's kidney failure—and knew of Miller's desire to donate—and put them together.

"A coworker told Nancy about my wife and she said she'd donate her kidney," Craig Wickesser said. "She hadn't even met my wife before. I couldn't get over that she wanted to do that for someone she hadn't even met yet."

Miller was not a match for Cindy Wickesser but the paired kidney exchange program matched her with someone else. In January 2010, Miller donated her kidney to a man in Minnesota and that man's wife then donated a kidney to Cindy Wickesser.

It is Cindy Wickesser's second donated kidney. Her husband donated his kidney to her in 2003, but it began to fail.

"My wife's been doing very good with this kidney," Craig Wickesser said. "Some implants turn out better than others. She had a rough time with my kidney. ... The doctors have told her that this was as good as it was going to get."

Cindy and Craig Wickesser donated to Miller's kidney walk team, Donor Divas & Dudes, and plan to walk the 1.6 miles on Sunday.

"We're very blessed and fortunate that Nancy would step up and do something like this. She's a special lady," Craig Wickesser said.

Educating About Living Donation

Miller said she knew she wanted to do something to benefit organ donation and fighting kidney disease when she and her friend Teri George decided to participate in the kidney walk.

"Amazingly after I donated, I met so many incredible people, mostly donors, and we all have the same passion: we don't believe that there is enough publicity about living donations," she said. "I got [a tattoo] on my wrist to help spark conversations."

Miller's voice gets excited as she talks about the need for living donors.

"I am just so passionate about this. Every month, 2,000 more names are added to the waiting list and 18 people will die each day waiting for a kidney. This shouldn't be so. We can live a fully healthy life with just one kidney," she said.

And she wants to donate again.

"I'm trying to sign up to be a liver donor, but hospitals are shying away from double donors," she said.

After initially setting a goal of raising $200, Donor Divas & Dudes have raised more than $2,300. The team has raised the third-highest amount of money for the walk.

"I said that if we came in first, I'd shave my head," Miller said. "We have until the day of the walk—I'll still do it."

To donate to Donor Divas & Dudes visit: donate.kidney.org/site/TR?pg=team&fr_id=4480&team_id=111325.

Nancy May 24, 2012 at 09:54 PM
Who are you and why do you care. I have had the single port incision over 2 years ago. I am informed. And again, most of us make a personal decision to take on the risks. I beleive all of has have acknowledged that. The only difference is we choose to help another before ourselves. Something obviously YOU know nothing about. Why don't you educate yourself in humanity? Good day.
Nancy May 24, 2012 at 11:33 PM
Good heavens woman, don't you get it. Donors CHOOSE to take the risk. Take that wonderful brain that God bestowed you with and hear us. WE DONT CARE about the risk, we CHOOSE to save a life. How many times do I have to say this?? And if you would use that education of yours and use it to help instead of wasting time on my article than this world would be a wonderful place. Again, God teaches s to put others before ourselves. But all you keep talking about is statistics.....We don't care. We are donors, amongst us we have saved many lives. And for each day you spend on here another 8 lives are lost. Try using that money you raise to actualy help the aftercare of donors and patients. At least we agree that it part could be improved. . I just don't get it, you say you are a living donor, your loved one was saved by a donor. You raise money for "living donors" But yet you try and talk others out of it by citing references tht you only read. You have never tested to be a donor, nor have gone thru the process, nor made that PERSONAL decision to donate. You choose to browbeat with statistical analysis to prove how smart you are. We get it your well educated but other than that....Donors CHOOSE to take the risk to help someone else. If you can't understand that then wish you well on whatever it is you do. But I choose to help save lives, sadly you turn people away.
Nancy May 24, 2012 at 11:49 PM
And don't use your well bred education to embarrass someone who was defending me. If you read her words, her spirit comes thru and she solidifies that we beleve iin our God. Not all of us has the obvious stellar educaton that you have had. Please use boundary's when you debate.
Nancy May 25, 2012 at 01:18 AM
I put my faith in God, not statistics. IDK (and yes I abbreviated!) if every study is screaming not to do it..but MY GOD says do it.....Then I do it!!! . No matter what happens. MY GOD will take care of me and I rest assured that I answered HIS specific calling for my life.
livingdonor101 May 25, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Hypocrite much? I suggest reviewing the plethora of unprovoked personal attacks you and your cohort have levied against me in this thread. I have asked you repeatedly to point out errors in my fact and you have been unable to do so. Each time you've responded with insults, name-calling and now, in desperation, the God card. Not EVERY donor CHOOSES to take a risk. Many feel pressured or coerced by family or friends. Many trust the transplant industry to protect and care for them when those protections simply don't exist. And many trust people like you who CHOOSE to remain ignorant because you appeal to their sense of generosity and faith. Faith in God and willful ignorance to the facts to not have to go hand-in-hand.
livingdonor101 May 25, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Google the names Rita Kochian and Daniel Huffman then tell me how efficient the evaluation process is. Oh, and Michael King, and Paul Hawkes, and Ryan Arnold, and Myra Martinez.
Nancy May 26, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Agree that there are donors that feel pressured or coerced, however, if they are honest and convey that to their TX coordiator then the donor would be ruled out by a "medical reason". I had 19 visits, and 19 times I had to answer that question. So you are AGAINST donations? Even though your siblng ironically was saved by one? I don't argue statistics, since I can do a quick google and find any statistic I want. I went thru the journey so I have experience. So with that being said, how coe you have not answered the the question on why you promote donation to turn around and argue against it.
Nancy May 26, 2012 at 08:08 PM
Another fail is your projection of donor expenses....."550.00 to 20,000" Are you kidding me? If any donor is facing $20,000 in expenses then somethng is seriosly wrong. A codonor of mine flew from east coast to west, lodging & meals......maybe $2500. But she also booked on delta who allows others to donate miles.
Nancy May 26, 2012 at 08:10 PM
"B. Lost Wages: Not all jobs provide paid vacation or sick leave, and there is the possibility of complications resulting in longer-than-expected convalescence. A Living Donor could be out of work for 2-12 weeks or more. Never mind major complications. 2 to 12 weeks????? Update your page. Single port incision. I donated on thursday, dishcarged Saturday back to work the following wed. Flanking is outdated.
Nancy May 26, 2012 at 08:12 PM
"One study from Germany and 1 from Australia found that 3% of donors resigned or were fired from their jobs as a result of physical limitations following surgery." Ok I agree with this since I have 3 friends who lost their job over their decision, but each case opened a whole new life for them.
Nancy May 26, 2012 at 08:14 PM
"According to data from UNOS and SRTR, 267 living kidney donors sought hospital readmission in the first year post-surgery from January 2008-March, 2009." come out of 08-09!! Again update your page....2010 I had a single port incision.....
Nancy May 26, 2012 at 08:20 PM
'Sites are popping up all over the web to facilitate what is known as "Good Samaritan" or "non-directed" living donation, which allow those in need of an organ to advertise for a living donor. These sites operate outside of UNOS/OPTN legal jurisdiction, meaning there is no oversight or guidelines to protect either the recipient or the living donor. In addition, these sites charge a fee to the recipient for listing" Again.....come out of your outdated info. My surgeon (Dr. Matthew Cooper/UMMC) is VP of UNOS and designed the Paired Exchange Program. They charge NOTHING for pairing. Again...seriously???
Nancy May 26, 2012 at 08:30 PM
II. HLA Matching All humans possess six Human Leukocyte Antigens (aka those things that make up our immune system), three from each parent. There are three general groups of HLA: A, B & DR with many subsets of each. The recipient and the potential donor's blood are HLA typed and then compared. The results are given as "X out of 6" match. "While advances in anti-rejection meds have made the degree of match less important, the greater the match, the lower the odds the recipient's body will reject the organ. " This system is outdated due to the advances in matching of organs!
Nancy May 26, 2012 at 08:37 PM
"What Might a Living Donor Grieve? - Being excluded as a living donor, or having the transplant denied or delayed. - The end of the donation process. Think of the 'let down' after a big, long-planned event. - The recipient's death or continued illness. - The living donor's pre-donation, complete, uncompromised body. - Any physical changes as a result of the donation. - The lack of a renewed or closer relationship with the recipient" Each donor takes a series of classes....including meeting with a social worker who stuidies the mental health and reasons for donating. I had to visit alot of Psyc/evals including what happened if my donated kidney failed, how would I feel. Would I attend the funeral. And how would I feel while watching my kidney be buried with that person. Seriously Come to 2012. Knock off your BS statistics and visit the world in person.
Nancy May 26, 2012 at 08:50 PM
**If a living donor provides the transplant center with their insurance information, they risk being billed for services, including complications and follow-up.** OMFG....ARe you kiddin me????? Really??? What year are you in? Even in 2010 donors again in their hours of classes are advised to take any invoices they recieve to their social worker! Good heavens....get your head out of the dark ages!
Nancy May 26, 2012 at 09:00 PM
"Remember: A living donor is enduring a needless surgery to relinquish a major and necessary organ as treatment for the recipient. Discussing and agreeing to a financial arrangement for a living donor's expenses is the least a would-be recipient can do." yes a donor is giving a kidney.....but one in 300 people are born with only one kidney, most living a normal healthy lives and not knowing until they go for one test or another. Proving that we only need1 kidney to live!!!!!!!!!!!!! NFL Ravens#99 Paul Kruger comes to my mind.....he lost his kidney and pancreas after a vehicle accident...yet he is grandslaming in pro football.......
Nancy May 26, 2012 at 09:04 PM
"Find out how the recipient's death would affect insurance coverage for the living donor. Without the recipient, the insurance coverage no longer exists. How will treatment for complications and follow-up will provided if the recipient's insurance is unavailable" Ok thanks for the laugh......most donors have already researched and spoke with their insurance providers. IN my case I was told that if I was healthy enough to donate, then I was their ideal insuree.
Nancy May 27, 2012 at 12:20 AM
"I would not encourage people to be a living donor," said Joyce Somsak, a spokeswoman for the division of the federal government that oversees organ transplants, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) in 2006. " 2006??? OK so many ways I can go here......you are sopposed to be pro donation, yet you are not...*although your sibling was saved by a donor" but 2006???? Really????? you do know that it is 2012??
Nancy May 27, 2012 at 12:58 PM
Interesting that I find on your personal website that you claim you are a donor. Yet here you claim that your a sister to a recipient.
livingdonor101 May 27, 2012 at 01:51 PM
Did you read the study that fact came from? It's clearly referenced.
livingdonor101 May 27, 2012 at 01:52 PM
READ THE STUDY REFERENCED. Not everyone's experience is your experience.
livingdonor101 May 27, 2012 at 01:53 PM
One-port, or single-port is still a form of laparoscopic surgery. Most LDs still have the hand-assisted. Same complications.
livingdonor101 May 27, 2012 at 01:57 PM
UNOS paired exchange program only which includes only a few transplant centers. Most centers who are involved with swaps and chains are involved with the National Kidney Registry or the Northeast Kidney Kidney Exchange Program. Not to mention there are plenty of individuals or or smaller groups who play matchmaker for recipients. Take the time to google and you will see that many of them do charge recipients (including UNOS, who charges transplant centers a fee for every living donors even though they have no authority to do so. The money usually comes from medicare. Again, do some research)
livingdonor101 May 27, 2012 at 02:00 PM
And once again, you're wrong. OPTN's data reports has a large graph tracking graft survival rates with HLA mismatch (specific directions are shown on the website on how to access it), as does SRTR's annual report. Look them up, they're available for free online.
livingdonor101 May 27, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Again with the insults.
livingdonor101 May 27, 2012 at 02:02 PM
And where are those boundaries you chastized me about? Once again, a simple web search will bring up news articles about living donors who have struggled with bills from their procedures and complications (and conveniently enough, if you had bothered to read the study on LD expenses, you would've found more info on that too)
livingdonor101 May 27, 2012 at 02:06 PM
One example (anecdote) does not proof make.
livingdonor101 May 27, 2012 at 02:15 PM
"most donors" - really? Show me some evidence of that. Honestly Nancy, I feel sorry for you. I can understand the need to preserve your self-identity as a hero, but your unprovoked and constant attacks, not to mention your misguided and erroneous attacks on research studies and the living donor experience are just pitiful. If you don't put your faith in statistics (as you proclaimed above) then why bother? Wouldn't your time and resources be better spent actually trying to make the world a better place? I, otoh, do have a life. So this is the last comment you will read from me. Take the opportunity to say all the nasty things you want to say (behavior I find interesting from someone who claims to be so pious; I don't recall name-calling and childish insults advocated in Sunday school). This entire thread will be a good character reference for anyone who does a little web investigation on you.
Nancy May 27, 2012 at 03:08 PM
What a pleasure this as been, interesting that you left out the fact that you are a living donor to who I can only guesswould be your sibling. Something must have went wrong back in 2008 to bring you to vilefy donors. Your webpage is filled with nothing but statistics. So the missing piece is just I don't get your motive. Is it that you might be jealous of a good donation? Is that why you had to comment on my story? Can you not stand for a good donation to happen? Is that why you onlly post negative stories, not to mention that one is instructed not t say "If I could, I would do it over, etc?" Or is it that you can't stand for anyone else to be in attention for donating? Especially Altruistic donors? I'll give you cred for the greyhounds but from what I know, your self employed and make up advocacy websites But instead of doing good with them, you manipulate others with them. So all you know of donation is what happened with your outdated surgery, so there for you just throw out statistics and scare people into not donating? But I just don't get why. Why would you do that? How do you live with yourself? Thats right, only people with souls have a concious.
Nancy May 27, 2012 at 04:41 PM
When I say "most donors" I am referring to my huge circle of donors & recipients. I go off their stories not web search. Although I do give you cred, hands down on your passion and searching.

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