Meeting the Need for Transplantation: UT Health San Antonio Lab Director Donates a Kidney to Save Lives

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As the Director of Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics at UT Health San Antonio, Dr. Kelley Hitchman has seen firsthand how the demand for transplantation has increased. The outstanding need for transplantation—with over 100,000 patients on the waiting list—cannot be met without help from living donors.

In 2021, Dr. Hitchman donated her kidney as a nondirected altruistic donor. Her donation was the first organ in a chain donation.

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National Kidney Registry

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For more information about living donation, please visit the National Kidney Registry (NKR). The NKR offers voucher programs that ensure friends and family members of living donors will have access to deceased donor transplantation if the need should arise.

The living donation process has deepened Dr. Hitchman’s gratitude for the hard work and care of transplant clinical teams, as well as the bravery of transplant patients and living donors. Her recovery process was quick, and her active lifestyle is the now same as before the donation surgery.

Many thanks to: 

Dr. Kelley Hitchman, Associate Professor | Section Chief, HLA | Director of Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics, UT Health San Antonio

Read Transcript

We have all these patients that have been waiting, some of them waiting for years for a chance for transplantation, and I knew I was healthy. I knew it was a good time, and so I went to my colleagues in the transplant center here at University Hospital and told them that I'd like to be worked up for living donation.

So in July of 2021, I decided to donate my kidney as a non-directed altruistic donor.

I think when people are considering living donation, one very common question is, "Will my lifestyle have to change?” "Will I be able to eat the same way?”, "Will I be able to exercise the way that I do now, after donation?" Those are all really reasonable questions.

My lifestyle has not changed at all since donation. I lift weights, I lift weights just as much now as I did before donation. And the recovery process for me was very quick. I think [for] anybody who's thinking about donating a kidney or a liver, [it] would be very wise if they know somebody who has donated, to talk to that person, or to go directly to the transplant center, even if it's just to ask questions.

It's important for patients, and donors, and caregivers to know that the transplant community is with you, that the transplant community is not satisfied with the status quo, that the transplant community is really working hard to always make transplantation, both living and deceased, more equitable and available to everybody in the United States. The need that we have, over 100,000 people on the deceased donor list cannot be met with deceased donation alone, and it takes the bravery of even a few to come forward and help to attack that problem.

I think one invaluable part of this process, from a professional perspective, was really getting to appreciate all the work that the clinical team does. All the work that the entire patient-facing team, and donor facing team does to accomplish these transplants with as little risk as possible. It's a lot of time, it's a lot of heart and investment, not just in their expertise, but in their caring. It makes me respect my colleagues, even just that much more, and our patients, and our donors even that much more.