Fairview Range Blog

Celebrating National Donate Life Month: Pengilly Woman Saves Uncle’s Life with Kidney Donation

Did you know April is National Donate Life Month? Right now, over 100,000 people across the United States are waiting for an organ according to the Health Services and Resources Administration. 

Every day, 17 of those people don’t make it by the time one is available. 

Have you ever considered donating an organ but the thought of it seems scary? The truth is that donating an organ is the most rewarding thing you can do and is a lot simpler than you think. Not only are you helping someone stay alive, but you’re also changing yourself for the better. 

There are two types of organ donation: deceased and living. 

Deceased Donation

If you choose to be a deceased donor, your organs are given to people in need of them after your death. Every major religion approves of organ donation states Donate Life America

Living Donation

A living donation is where you donate an organ while you are still alive. There are only a few possibilities in this area and all make a huge impact on someone’s life. 

According to Kidney.org, “The organ most commonly given by a living donor is the kidney. Parts of other organs including the lung, liver, and pancreas are now being transplanted from living donors.”

A donor can be matched to a patient in need through the amazing process of organ matching through the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.

A Simple Decision

Chrissy Grozdanich, a Supervisor of Patient Financial Services at Fairview Range in Hibbing, Minnesota recently donated her kidney to her uncle, Tony Lukken, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 

“Polycystic kidney disease runs in the family,” explains Grozdanich. “We found out my Grandma had it after she passed away, so my mom and her siblings got tested. Turned out, my Uncle Tony had the same disease. Back then it was only in the early stages but when his kidneys started failing fast, I tested to see if we were a match. We were. It was a simple decision to give him one of my kidneys.” 

While Grozdanich’s decision was simple, the donation process is a bit more complex. Hospitals are extremely thorough. They make sure donors are ready and able mentally and physically before surgery is scheduled. This takes several screening steps, from an interview and blood tests.

“They first screened me over the phone. This was followed up by blood testing that I was able to do at Fairview Range,” says Grozdanich. “The team really explained every part of the process to me and made me feel comfortable during every moment.”

After being matched in August of 2019, there were some delays for surgery due to illness and the COVID-19 pandemic.  However, finally, on October 29, 2020, Grozdanich and Lukken headed into surgery in a hospital in Milwaukee. Both had zero complications during surgery and were able to spend their recovery period in a complimentary furnished 3-bedroom home across the street from the hospital. 

Chrissty Grozdanich Kidney Donation with Uncle 2

“The recovery stage went relatively quick,” states Grozdanich. “I was able to leave the hospital the day after and rest up at the provided house. It’s painful the first couple of days but once you’re healed, it really is like nothing ever happened.”

These days, both Grozdanich and Lukken are doing well. 

“I’m doing wonderful! My labs keep showing my kidney is doing great,” gushes Grozdanich. “I don’t think people realize how easy it is to donate and live a normal life after.” 

Lukken now considers October 29th, the anniversary of the transfer, his second birthday. Last year, the duo planned to celebrate by attending a Chris Stapleton concert. Unfortunately, that didn’t end up happening due to COVID-19 concerns, but they plan to do something fun in the future every year. 

“Donating is incredible – one person can save eight people by simply becoming a deceased donor,” emphasized Grozdanich. “Some people think that your family won’t be able to see you after you die if you become a donor, but that is not the case. There are a lot of myths around organ donations, but I would recommend people do their research before they make assumptions.” 

“It’s a blessing, I get teary-eyed every time I think about it,” says Lukken “The gift of life – how do you say thank you? How do you repay that? It takes a special type of person to do that; it’s an unbelievable gift.”

Chrissy was the guest of honor at a Donate Life flag raising ceremony at Fairview Range Medical Center held on Friday, April 22 at 10:08 a.m. (symbolizing a new name is added to the waiting list every 10 minutes and a single organ donor can save up to eight lives) as part of a national effort to honor those that have saved lives through the gift of donation.

Fairview Range Donate Life Flag Raising_Chrissy_2022

Become a Donor

Helping someone get their life back is as simple as checking a box. You can say yes to being a deceased donor next time you redo your license. If you’re interested in a living donation, you can learn more at life-source.org or organdonor.gov


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