November 16, 2023 – Washington County, WI – On October 31, 2023, Slinger resident Laura Jones entered the hospital as a volunteer and left as a kidney transplant donor.
Jones gave someone the gift of life; she donated her kidney to an unknown recipient in Florida.
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“My dad donated his kidney to my uncle back in 2000-2001,” said Jones. “Organ donations have always been very important to our family because of that. So, I’ve always kind of known in my heart that I wanted to do it myself someday… It’s just been really heavy on my heart for about a year.”
Russell Jones said his wife started this process about a year ago. “Since that time, she had gone through extensive medical and psychological evaluations to determine her viability. A few months ago, she was approved for donation and continued the process to get matched with a recipient.”
About a month ago she got the call she had been waiting for; she was matched to an individual down in Florida.
Jones works from home as a paralegal for her husband, who is an attorney, creating the ideal opportunity to manage the surgery and recovery period.
“We live in Slinger so transitioning back to work will be a little easier because the big thing going forward is the fatigue until my one good kidney kind of kicks back in. I can kind of work a little bit here and there,” she said.
Jones’ family was initially “a little shocked” when she let them know that being an organ donor was tugging on her heartstrings, “Organ donations have always been something that’s been important in our family. My parents are very proud…as is my husband.”
“I think in a month or so I get to write a letter to my recipient and then they get to write a letter to me. We get to exchange letters and then it’s up to the recipient if they want to exchange contact information or anything like that. I would love to get to know, at least a little bit more about the recipient someday, but I certainly respect their wishes.”
Giving the gift of life is not enough for Laura Jones. She intends to do so much more with her experience. “My part of what I want to do going forward is to get involved. There are some volunteer opportunities to become, you know, a living donor advocate for the Kidney Foundation….to raise awareness. What’s really important to me going forward is to educate people and become involved in the living donor process somehow.
“You know, everyone knows you can donate blood and plasma and stuff like that, but I think people think organ donation is more of a thing that you do…you know, a little dot you get on your driver’s license, and that’s all the thought you really put into it. But there’s so much more and there are so many more opportunities for people to help people out there.”
Jones said the average time a recipient waits on a donor list for an available organ is approximately four years and it’s only a small percentage that receive the living organ donation. Those that do have a significant increase in quality of life. Jones feels that if more people understood the process of living donation, that may help to increase the odds of more recipients receiving the gift of life.
Jones does not want to be viewed as a hero but if someone said she was a lifesaver, “I obviously did it to save someone’s life, right? Yes. I feel like everyone keeps asking me ‘Oh, why would you do that?’ Because, I mean, really, at the end of the day, there’s no benefit to me, right? I mean, if anything, there’s a risk to me going forward. I haven’t even been scared or nervous or anything through the whole process.”
Jones would like to focus on sharing her story and raising awareness not only about kidney donation, but blood and plasma donation.
“Although she does not yet know who is receiving her kidney, the fact that she went through this process, for no other reason, other than to save a stranger’s life is beyond incredible,” said Russell.
“Laura is the sort of person that has such an enormous heart and spends every day helping other people around her whether it’s friends or family, and now she is gave someone truly the gift of life,” said Russell, “I cannot believe that she put herself through all of this for a total stranger, but a living organ donation is an incredible thing, and I am honored to call Laura my wife.”
Laura has this advice for anyone considering living organ donation, “It’s a bit of a sacrifice, it scares people off and I think we need to get back to the values of just helping other people. I understand giving an organ is a big, huge step. But you know, if it strikes a chord, go donate blood, donate plasma, I mean, there’s a lot of things you can do to help other people if you don’t want to jump to donating an organ.”
“And to my donor, whoever you are, down in Florida,” said Laura, “please know that I’m praying for you, and I hope that your recovery is even quicker and easier than mine. I look forward to hopefully knowing at least your name someday.”
Jones sums her living donation up this way, “If I’ve been given a blessed enough life that I tried to help and save someone, well…I’m honored to have been able to do that.”