As the child of a nurse, Kelly Long always felt inexplicably drawn to medicine. She immersed herself in articles about health issues, and became engrossed watching medical shows on television. By the time she was 18, Kelly was working in a hospital with a busy trauma center, seeing patients arrive with devastating injuries and illnesses.
Sometimes Kelly noticed transplant coordinators educating patients' famies about organ donation. "Donating a loved one's organs must give a grieving family some peace," Kelly often thought to herself.
Kelly made up her mind to be an organ donor, if she was ever injured without a chance for recovery. As she put it, "I don't believe in wasting valuable resources."
One day, Kelly read an article about a woman who had donated a kidney to a stranger. The possibility of a living donation had never occurred to Kelly befe, but it seemed an obvious and altruistic thing to do for someone in need. After doing some research, Kelly was surprised to learn that such living donations were not very common. Yet she decided that she would give the "ultimate gift" by donating a kidney to a stranger in need.
"Seeing people at work everyday that need kidneys, and reading statistics on how long the wait is, made me even more committed to be a donor myself", she said.
The evaluation process for the kidney transplant was intense, but Kelly was fueled by her passion to do the right thing. 10 months after first reading the inspirational article, Kelly was donating a kidney to a teenager in a hospital 1300 miles from home.
The kidney transplant was successful. Next came the anxious time when doctors would see if the recipient would accept Kelly's kidney" and not reject the unfamiliar tissue. Luckily, there were no signs of rejtion, and both patients were sent home to recover.
The recipient's family sent Kelly a letter while she was in the hospital, telling her of their experiences on the transplant waiting list. As of today, Kelly's kidney is still functioning well in its new home. Looking back, Kelly says, "Going through the experience certainly made me a more compassionate caregiver. I have no regrets and if I could, I would donate again."
Kelly Long (right) with social worker Cheryl Jacobs after Kelly's operation.