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U of U Health Transplant Coordinator Pays it Forward with Living Kidney Donation

Heidi Shaw, a transplant coordinator at University of Utah Health has been a nurse for 20 years and was inspired to donate one of her kidneys before she turned 50.

In June 2020, at the age of 48, Shaw donated her kidney. Originally, she wanted to donate her kidney to a friend, but there were some hiccups along the way. Not only were Shaw and her friend at different medical institutions, but they also weren't compatible.

When an organ donor and their intended recipient end up being incompatible, they must rely on other potential donors and recipients to provide the matches they need. This allows donors to donate and recipients to receive, even if it means being matched with a total stranger.

"Even though I was disappointed that I wouldn't be able to donate my kidney directly to my friend, it ended up creating a really special opportunity," said Shaw. "I was able to participate in a paired exchange program and was part of an 8-person donation chain with four donors and four recipients."

In August 2021, Shaw and the other members of her donation chain got together.

"We met at a park and had a little get-together," said Shaw. "It was really fun, and also neat to get to meet everyone who made this donation chain possible."

Shaw is about to celebrate the two-year anniversary of her donation, and her health couldn't be better.

"Everything is really good, and I'm moving right along," said Shaw. "I'm super glad I did it, and I have no regrets. It's a rewarding process."

Working as a transplant coordinator, Shaw sees firsthand the need for more organ donors – both living and deceased. For Shaw, education and awareness are key.

"It's great to have one month out of the year where we are reminded about organ donation, and that we can talk about it," said Shaw. "Organ donation is always there, but it's a great opportunity to say 'hey, remember to sign up to be a donor.' We need to highlight organ donation and create more awareness, and National Donate Life Month provides us with a great opportunity to do this."

Shaw has been with U of U Health since 2005 and is grateful to be part of such an amazing team.

U of U Health's Transplant Services is the only comprehensive transplant center in Utah offering all solid organ transplant types: kidney, pancreas, liver, heart, and lung. Initially the center, which was established in 1965, only offered kidney transplant services. Since then, U of U Health's transplantation experts have performed than 400 liver transplants, along with multiple lung, pancreas and heart transplants.

U Health Transplant Services provides both deceased and living donor programs.

Save a Life: Become an Organ Donor

Interested in becoming a living organ donor? Learn more about U of U Health's Living Donor Program to see if you are eligible.

If you aren't eligible to become a living donor, there is still so much you can do to help. Register to become an organ, eye, and tissue donor today.