Upstate woman explains why she donated her kidney to a stranger

Upstate woman donates kidney to a stranger
Published: Mar. 20, 2023 at 5:43 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - According to the National Kidney Foundation there are more than 120,000 people in the U.S. waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant. The majority of people on the list are in need of a kidney transplant. One upstate woman explains why she donated one of her kidneys to a complete stranger.

Marie Cole is the outdoor program specialist for the Palmetto Council Boy Scouts of America in Spartanburg. She spends many hours teaching scouts how to climb walls, build fires and survive in the wild. But another important aspect of the scouts is giving back.

“We really try to instill into our scouts that you are not just one person, but rather a community,” Cole said. “Part of that is generosity.”

Cole decided it was her turn to follow the words she preaches. She had considered donating a kidney for several years and knew the optimal time was nearing. She had just turned 29 and winter was generally the slow season in the Boy Scouts.

“Part of it was as you age your function goes down so this was the healthiest my kidney would ever be,” Cole said. “I wanted to give my recipient the best kidney I could.”

She decided to donate a kidney to a stranger, but her true inspiration came from her grandfather. When she was a child he received a heart transplant, it allowed him to live for 10 more years. She says if not for that she probably wouldn’t have had any memories of him.

“Having the chance to know my grandpa meant the world to me growing up,” Cole said.

Her mom also donated a kidney five years ago.

“I got to see the process at a closer distance and understand what I was in for,” Cole said.

She made the decision to donate in September and started the process, which included an application and various tests to make sure her kidneys were healthy. Then, in December her doctors approved the surgery in Atlanta. She said the surgery lasted about three hours.

“I had six weeks of recovery where I basically sat on my couch and binged Netflix,” Cole said. “But besides that it’s just being aware of my salt intake and caffeine intake.”

Pretty quickly she was able to return to her regular duties in the Boy Scouts. She had to take it easy at first, but says she was able to do everything she could before. The best part was when she received an email from the recipient. It was a mother with an eight year old daughter. The mother said she has renewed energy and can now spend quality time with her daughter.

“She doesn’t have to pick and choose what activities she can do with her daughter, she can just go live her life as a mother again,” Cole said. “That to me is the biggest gift I have gotten out of this. Not just giving Emily her life back, but also giving Emily’s daughter her mom back.”

Marie says she had to undergo several blood tests and full body scans to make sure she was not only healthy, but a match for the recipient. She says it was a lot of hours, but in the end the donation was worth it. If you are interested in donating contact the National Kidney Foundation.