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    Inspired by her mother, career, transplant nurse altruistically becomes organ donor

Stephanie Donelan recovers following kidney donation surgery

Each April, the country celebrates Donate Life Month, an observance to raise awareness about the importance of organ donation, celebrating donors' incredible generosity and inspiring others to consider becoming organ donors. It is also a time to celebrate the unique contributions transplant nurses make to the lives of their patients. Inspired by her work and her mother, Stephanie Donelan, a post-liver transplant coordinator at Mayo Clinic in Florida, gave her role as a transplant nurse new meaning by becoming an altruistic living kidney donor.

"I decided to be a living kidney donor because of my exposure to the world of transplant," says Stephanie. "Working with the transplant team, I've had the opportunity to see the need that there is for organ transplants. I know there are plenty of people on the waiting list who don't get an organ. We deal with people who have been really sick, either very acutely or for a really long time, and it's pretty incredible to get to see people with a new lease on life."

In addition to her work and the patients she serves, Stephanie's mother also inspired her decision.

"My mom was diagnosed with early-onset dementia," she shares. "I think, as someone who has had a loved one with a chronic health condition and feeling kind of helpless to do anything, it put me in a position where, when there was an opportunity to make a difference, I felt pretty motivated."

There are nearly 90,000 people on the waiting list for a kidney transplant in the U.S. Unfortunately, the demand for kidneys exceeds the supply. Living donor chains are giving hope to those in need of vital organs.

"A living kidney donor chain is when someone altruistically donates a kidney, meaning donates a kidney with not a specific individual in mind, that can start a chain effect of donors," says Dr. Shennen Mao, a Mayo Clinic transplant surgeon.

Stephanie Donelan sitting up in a hospital bed reading a book..

"Stephanie's story is an incredibly motivating story," says Dr. Mao. "We have somebody who has really given her career to transplant as a nurse taking care of patients, and then to be motivated to donate a kidney to start a chain and influence the lives of complete strangers going forward — I think her story is just incredible, really practicing what we preach in the transplant community."

Stephanie credits her colleagues and care team, including other transplant nurses, for putting her mind at ease and supporting a quick recovery. "I think because I had so much trust in my care team here I really didn't feel nervous," she says. "I felt very confident in my decision to donate. The level of attention here at Mayo Clinic is really unique."

"I think my mom would be really proud of my kidney donation," says Stephanie. "The values she instilled in me from the time of my childhood is carrying on."

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