The wait was short compared to most for Molly Wright, who made it off Colorado’s organ transplant waiting list when a stranger volunteered to donate a kidney.
“She said that her faith brought her there, and she talked to God, and it was what she was meant to do,” Wright said of Holly Ross, her kidney donor.
Ross had worked with Wright’s mother at a church food bank, where Wright’s mom had passed out flyers about Molly’s need for a kidney.
Ross took the flyer home, and two weeks later shared with Wright’s mother that she had passed the first test to donate a kidney to Molly.
“And I just knew,” Ross said. “I knew God wanted me to do it. There was just such a peace. In my heart, I just, I knew this was something I was going to do.”
“It was amazing,” Wright said. “I’ve had friends and family offer to get tested. But this was a complete stranger. She just thought about other people and you know, wanted to help, and that, that has always blown my mind about people.”
Wright needed the organ after getting very sick in May 2015, shortly before giving birth to her son Nolan.
She was diagnosed with HELLP syndrome, an unusual form of pre-eclampsia that is considered to be a life-threatening pregnancy complication.
The elementary school P.E. teacher had a stroke and a seizure in the hospital and gave birth to her first and only child by urgent c-section.
Afterward, she had a hysterectomy due to an infection in her uterus, and her kidneys didn’t work.
“Hence the dialysis,” Wright said. “Once I was strong enough and my infection went away, I could leave the hospital. But my kidneys still weren’t, weren’t working.”
The new mom had to spend about 14 hours per week doing dialysis, simply to stay alive.
“To be a brand new mother – to have a baby and not be able to truly be there for that child – and not know that you’re going to be there for that child – that’s a pain that most people can’t imagine,” Ross said.
In December 2015, Wright got on the kidney transplant waiting list through Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center.
Her family and community then launched a search to find a living donor.
The campaign included flyers, a Facebook page and t-shirts created by her students at Prairie Crossing Elementary School in Parker.
A few months later, Ross offered to donate.
“Whether they like it or not, they’re family is part of our family now,” Wright said. “We’ve just kind of adopted my donor and her family.”
By proclamation, Gov. John Hickenlooper recently established June 13th each year as 'Living Donor Day’ in Colorado.
The proclamation says the number of people on the organ transplant waiting list in Colorado has increased by 50% over the past 10 years, compared to the national rate of 25.6%.
It says 95% of the 2,516 Coloradans on the list are in need of a liver or kidney, organs that can be donated by a living person.
“The recipients of a living donor kidney transplant experience much better outcomes than an ordinary deceased donor transplant,” Presbyterian/St. Luke’s transplant surgeon Dr. Ben Vernon said. “And we can do the transplant when the donor and the recipient are ready. No more waiting. Right now, the average waiting time to get to the top of our list in the United States is about 6 or 7 years.”
“An average lifespan for a living donor kidney is about 18 to 20 years, as opposed to a deceased donor kidney that on an average lasts about 8 to 10 years,” Medical Director of the transplant program at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Dr. Vidya Bhandaram said. “Patients get out of the hospital much sooner. The rejection rates are lower. Complications are lower with living donor kidneys.”
Gov. Hickenlooper’s proclamation says if one of every 3,000 Coloradans donated a kidney, Colorado’s kidney waiting list would be eliminated.