It is National Donate Life Month and we’re so happy to share another positive organ donation story with you. This one comes straight from our own staff. Operating room nurse Kacie Majkich donated her kidney to her sister, Kaylie. Kacie and her family will be honored at a Donate Life flag raising at Fairview Range on April 27th 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). Their mom, Colleen Majkich, works at Fairview Range in the diagnostic imaging department and has been with Fairview for 40 years.
In December of 2017, the family found out that Kaylie had a kidney disease called Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) and she started being routinely seen at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN to monitor and treat this condition. In the fall of 2020, she became very sick. She had contracted a very toxic form of food poisoning (shiga toxin-producing e. coli) that caused her to develop hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which put her kidneys into renal failure. Kaylie underwent a month and a half long stay at Mayo’s St. Mary’s Hospital and was in and out of the hospital down there until about March of 2021. At this time, after many efforts to recover her kidneys, the family was informed that her kidneys had experienced too much damage and that they would not be able to regain function. They told the family that she would need a transplant and would have to start dialysis.
“Watching my sister go through this experience was very difficult,” shares Kacie. “During her hospitalization, there was a no visitor policy as this was during a peak time of the COVID-19 pandemic. We were unable to be with my sister and had to just talk to her over Zoom.”
This was very hard on the whole family. There were days when Kaylie would just break down because she felt so alone. All Kacie wanted to do was just be there with her to give her a hug and support her.
“Being on the sidelines of this experience, I felt so helpless,” explains Kacie. “There was nothing I could do except stay strong for my sister and help advocate for her during her recovery. When we found out she was going to need a transplant, I felt like there was finally something that I could do to help her.”
After the family found out Kaylie needed a transplant, many of them filled out the donor questionnaire. Both her mom and sister were able to get to the step of undergoing a two-day evaluation to donate, but they were informed that only one of them could do this at a time.
“My mom and I had to have a lengthy discussion of which one of us was going to keep moving forward,” comments Kacie. “My mom would have had to do a paired donation whereas I would be able to directly donate. They informed us the pairing process can take up to six months to find another donor that would swap kidneys. Hearing how long this could potentially take and knowing my sister would have to continue having dialysis until she received a transplant, I decided that I wanted to move forward and not delay this process any longer. I also wanted to give her the best chance of having a kidney that could last her a long time as we had no antibodies against each other and had a 50% match. I was able to donate to my sister in July of 2021.”
When it came time to start the donation process, Kacie was pleasantly surprised. It seemed very simple. She filled out the basic questionnaire that included her health history. She was then connected to a donor advocate who walked her through the reasons she wanted to donate and what her next steps were if she continued the process. She then received a kit in the mail to complete some lab work that tested antibodies and confirmed her blood type. It turned out positive. After that, she did a two-day evaluation at the Mayo Clinic. Those two days consisted of many tests that ranged from lab work to CT scans.
“They assessed me to make sure I did not feel any pressure to donate. After my evaluation my results were brought forward to a transplant board where they would decide if I was able to donate a kidney to my sister. I received a call the following week that I was able to donate and that we could schedule our surgery.”
The surgery took place at the Mayo Clinic as Kaylie had already been an established patient there. Both surgeries went extremely well.
“After receiving the transplant, I have felt like a whole new person,” adds Kaylie. “It was as though life was restored back to me immediately after transplant. My new kidney has been doing great and I have been feeling healthy. It has truly been a life changing experience.”
“Since having surgery, I have felt completely normal,” says Kacie. “I have not experienced any after-effects or have had any issues arise since my donation. I did not have to modify my lifestyle in any way and just have to make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day.”
Throughout the process, Fairview Range supported the family.
“Before I had surgery, I had undergone the interview process for my current position and was offered the job,” says Kacie. “I explained that I would accept the position, but I was going to be donating my kidney to my sister and would need eight weeks to recover after the surgery. They supported my decision to donate by allowing me to have a start date after my recovery from surgery. My mom was able to take time off during my sister’s initial hospitalization and when we had our surgery to be her caregiver.”
Kacie was also able to do her initial lab draw for her ABO compatibility and antibody screening at Fairview Range. Kaylie has been able to get all her follow up labs done at Fairview Range as well.
Kacie would recommend donating to anybody who can.
“Yes, I would recommend donating to others. I found this experience was very eye opening as there are many people who get placed on the transplant list and may have to wait for years before they can receive one. Giving someone the gift of life has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done in my life. I have been able to watch my sister recover and get back to her normal life where she is able to work and enjoy the little things in life. Seeing her transform back to her normal self has made me so proud that I was able to give that back to her and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
If you’re interested in learning more about donating, visit www.donatelife.net.