This is a story about two women who share more than just friendship. They share the gift of life.
Melissa Blevins runs the solid organ transplant unit at Mayo Clinic in Arizona. Every day she hears about people who die because no donor organs are available. The day she saw two little children die while waiting for transplants, her life changed forever.
"It struck me that night that both of those deaths were so unnecessary," says Melissa. "It really turned a corner for me, and I thought we've got to do more. I've got to do more. And then I met Risa."
Melissa volunteered to donate one of her kidneys to Risa.
"We matched as close as sisters," says Risa.
Giving up a kidney is not risk-free, so Melissa's health was thoroughly evaluated. On the day of the operation, transplant teams worked simultaneously to remove both of Risa's damaged kidneys and one of Melissa's healthy ones. Risa received the healthy kidney, and the women started on the road to recovery — together.
"She calls her kidney, the one that I donated, MAK. That's an acronym for 'Melissa's amazing kidney,'" says Melissa.
"Not only did Melissa give me a new kidney, she allowed me to give someone else my place in line," says Risa.
"I'm overwhelmed by her spirit, her selflessness, her desire to not only be passionate about spreading the word about living donation, but to be walking the talk," says Risa.
Mayo Clinic is the largest transplant center in the country and a leader in transplant research. Patients benefit from the latest advances in transplant medicine, and they have more options for care than existed as recently as 10 years ago.
But without organ donors — people who have designated their consent to donate vital organs after death — nothing can be done for thousands of patients whose only hope lies in the forethought and generosity of others whom they may never meet.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, over 110,000 people are waiting, worldwide for a donor organ.