82,000 people are waiting for a kidney right now in this country. What many people don't understand is that you don't have to die or be related to donate one of your kidneys. We met a Brookings man who really wanted to give something of himself to his wife for Christmas last year, so he gave her a kidney.
Last year at this time, the Kampmann family from Brookings wasn't doing any last minute Christmas shopping. Instead they were in the hospital because on Christmas Eve day Tony gave his wife Jennifer a kidney.
Tony says, "I've known for about 15, 16 years that this was going to happen. We were just waiting so I didn't think about it too much."
Jennifer was born with Polycystic Kidney Disease. It's a genetic disorder where cysts form in the kidney. Overtime those cysts restrict the kidney from doing its job which is to filter wastes and extra fluid from the blood and turn it in to urine. Jennifer, now 36 has known since she was 17 that one day she would need a kidney. Her husband knew when that day came he would gladly give her one of his. Luckily, they were a perfect match.
Jennifer says, "Surprisingly, I wasn't feeling as lousy as most people would think, but now that I have a new kidney I can tell I was probably feeling poorly. I was just probably used to feeling that way."
The Kampmanns hope that in the hustle and bustle of the season and the rush to fill shopping bags you consider giving something invaluable: The gift of life.
Jennifer says, "There are no words to describe it. It's amazing. I'm very thankful and encourage others who are considering it to do so because it's the most wonderful gift you can give someone and seeing Tony today you'd never know he was any different. He lives the same life he lived before. It's been a great process."
Getting a kidney from a live person rather than someone who's died is better for the recipient. Dr. Chris Auvenshine with the Avera Transplant Institute says the surgeries are planned before the person goes on dialysis, plus they are done in adjacent operating rooms so the transfer is quick which means less "down time" for the kidney.
Dr. Auvenshine says, "It functions almost immediately, and it tends to perform much better."
Jennifer says, "It was the best Christmas gift I could ever get."
And what great role models they are for their daughters Shelby and Emma in a season that is all about giving and sharing and love.
Jennifer's mother also had a kidney transplant. She got hers from her step-daughter. Everyone, the recipients and the donors are all doing great. If you are interested in getting on the donor list contact the Avera Transplant Institute.