Meet the Y: Cindy

When Cindy Reeves learned her friend in Denver was in failing health and needed a kidney, she didn’t hesitate. “I’ll do it,” she thought. “I’ll give him my kidney.” 

Only six months earlier, Reeves had learned that her friend and fellow yoga classmate at Springs Family YMCA was an organ transplant recipient, so she knew firsthand how impactful living organ donation can be for those in need. 

“I had an overwhelming feeling from God that I would be a match,” Reeves explained. She registered as a donor and began the process of giving her kidney to someone else. And by process, she means process!

Donors undergo stress tests, cardiac tests, CT scans, and blood analysis to ensure a successful transplant. “I am not exaggerating when I say fifty vials of blood!” Reeves said.

There are meetings with social workers and mental health screenings. Prospective donors can choose to withdraw from the process at any time. Only around one in nine people who take the initial steps turn out to be viable donors. Underlying health issues are the most common barrier to donation. 

And even when a potential donor has cleared all of the screenings, they may not be a match for their loved one. That was the case for Reeves and her friend in Denver. 

Undeterred, Reeves resolved that she would be a donor anyway, even though she wasn’t a match for her friend. She reasoned, “What if that were my family member? Wouldn’t I give them my kidney? How could I go out into the world and ask, ‘Please donate to my friend,’ if I wasn’t willing to do it myself?”

When a donor is not a match for their loved one but is willing to donate anyway, the organ procurement organization prioritizes finding a match for the person in need, and matches the donor with a stranger in need. This way, two people donate, and two people receive organs! 

Fortunately, Reeves’s friend found a match and underwent a successful surgery on October 3, 2019. Reeves was scheduled to undergo her own surgery on the following day in the same hospital, so she was able to visit her friend in recovery just before the big day.  

Reeves didn’t know who would receive her kidney, but in the pre-op consultation she noticed another family in the room. They spoke Spanish and communicated through an interpreter. “That’s got to be her! That’s her,” she thought, seeing an ill woman with her two children and husband at her side. 

Surgery was a success, and Reeves asked if she could meet the recipient. The feeling was mutual, and the two families were introduced. Speaking through an interpreter, Reeves’s kidney recipient told her she was 38 years old, and only three weeks ago had instructed her husband to take care of their two children because she was so sick. “No, God is going to provide,” her husband had told her. And now, not even a month later, she had a healthy kidney. 

When asked what insights she could provide to others who read her story and feel inspired, Reeves advises, “Get healthy now. A lot of people start the process and find they have to lose weight before they can donate. Get healthy now, because, if your family member needs a kidney, they may not have the time to wait.” 

Organ donation is becoming more common. In 2018, nearly 7,000 people in America served as living donors. The need, however, continues to rise. Every ten minutes, another person is added to the organ transplant waiting list

Reeves wants to spread the word about organ donation. “There are good things happening in the world,” she says, “and this is one of them. I didn’t know who would receive my kidney. I didn’t care.” Reeves just knew that if she ever felt like she would ask others to do it, she must also be willing to do it herself. 

“It was the most rewarding experience of my life,” she beamed. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Roxanne Rathge
All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and/or contributors and not of their employer. Any questions or concerns regarding the content found here may be sent to info@austinymca.org

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